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Dolmens in Denmark: Møn

Dolmens in Denmark: Sprovedyssen

There are a lot of dolmens in Denmark. They are everywhere! And they are beautiful too. Astonishing even. Take Møn for instance. This sparsely populated island on the south coast offers an interesting concentration of burial mounds and dolmens.

Holidays between dolmens in Denmark

It is the last week of the summer vacation. I drive slowly and take a good look around me. The road through the rolling landscape is narrow. There is hardly any other traffic. Most tourists have apparently already left. There are signs at a small rounded hill. This is the place I am looking for; Kong Asgers Høj. Because I expect some sort of stone construction as is I know, I am surprised. The stones are still under the sand! This burial mound dates from the late Stone Age and is up to 5000 years old and sill complete.

Kong Asgers Høj

The entrance gate is open. The underground passage to the burial chamber is ten meters long. If I bend over I can walk through it. All light slowly disappears. I was unprepared and after a few meters saved myself with the light from my camera’s flash and the mobile phone. This is how I reach the burial chamber that is right across the hall. It is slightly higher than the hallway. Standing does not work. The inner length is ten meters, the width two. Here it is dark like the subterranean. I feel like I made a trip to the realm of the dead.

Back outside it turns out that more tourists have come to this Neolithic building; there is a car next to mine, kids get out and run up the hill. When I do the same later, I look out over a peaceful arable landscape. I see the sea and there is a strong wind.

Sprovedyssen

One hundred meters away is Sprovedyssen. That looks more familiar, because the arrangement of bare stones is very similar to that of the dolmens in my home country, The Netherlands. It is a restoration. The stones have been expertly stacked. The structure is in the middle of a circle of 35 stones. Also beautiful, less darkness, more light and air.

Two more dolmens in Denmark on Møn

The beginning was promising. More neolithic spectacle follows.

Klekkende Høj

There is a small parking lot. From there I have to walk through a grain field for five minutes to get to the burial mound. The terrace and the double entrance are striking. Both entrances are too small to bend through. This is not for people with claustrophobia. If you want to enter it, you have to enter the dark. Twice, because one corridor has a burial chamber to the left and the other one to the right. There is no inner connection. The rooms are slightly higher than the tunnels. That provides a little air.

The Danish dolmen with a double entrance
Klekkende Høj

On the way back I look around better than during the way there. The sign on the hill said that many artifacts and evidence of early agriculture have been found in the immediate vicinity. Near the parking lot there is a crater-like floor in the landscape with water in it. Is that the bog where archaeologists have found ritual-sacrificed tools?

Den Hvide Sten

That is a long grave; 100 meters with three burial pits. Two open and one covered with a large white stone. This is different from the other monuments. It looks like a dike. I want to climb and walk on it. And then back again. And along the left and along the right. What a gigantic object. I keep walking and wondering. When I am on top of it, I carefully look into the pits and wonder if there is not much more hidden in this ribbon of sand and stones than these three holes. With such a size, I can hardly imagine anything else. According to the accompanying board, the white stone has a special meaning. Something magical. So much mysterious peculiarity makes this building – just like the other dolmens on Møn – a real Neolithic gem.

More dolmens in Denmark

There are much more dolmens in Denmark. Møn is special, but not unique. I hope to tell and show you more neolithic beauty in a next blog.

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Neolithic Orkney in one day

Neolithic Orkney: Digital art of Stones of Stenness

My curiosity about the Orkney Islands arose when I saw the August 2014 issue of National Geographic. It contained a twenty-page article about the monuments of Neolithic Orkney with beautiful photos. After reading I immediately planned the trip. A few months later I’m heading north in my motor home, passing lots of Neolithic sites in Scotland. Most of them I visit in cloudy weather, others in the rain. But as I approach John ‘o Groats, the cloud cover breaks open, so that from a few kilometers I see the islands bathing in bright sunlight like the promised land. It’s storming. I book a ticket for the foot ferry that leaves for the islands early in the next morning.

Arrival at Neolithic Orkney

The sea is calm and looks like a mirror. It is a sunny almost windless day. The crossing takes forty five minutes. Despite the good visibility, I don’t see any seals or whales. After arrival, I take a coach for the maxitour. This is the most comprehensive of the entire range of guided island explorations. The driver starts the engine and from then on talks non-stop at a leisurely pace about the Orkneys. He displays a pleasant mix of pride and self-mockery. What surprises me most are his stories about sunken warships: After World War I, a German admiral sank his fleet in the Scapa flow. And during World War II, the British army sank ships to close gaps between islands to protect the docked fleet. In vain, because a German submarine slipped through the barrier, causing death and destruction. Since then, Orkney has been a true diver’s paradise.

Skara Brae

Our company first visits Skara Brae. It is a complex of ten neolithic buildings that came from under the dune sand in 1850. Investigation pointed out that after some 400 years of habitation it became suddenly abandoned around 2500 BC. You won’t find anything like this in Northern Europe older than this amazing highlight of Neolithic Orkney. Fist, we take a look a look at the found artifacts in the museum at the entrance. From there we walk into a reconstructed stone age house, complete with furnishings. It looks cozy and homely; stone cupboard, rugs, fire. The pointed roof and the round shape give the whole the experience of a yurt. If we continue on the dune path from there, we come to the amazing houses themselves. They are smaller than I thought and are close together. There is a path around it. The view over the bay is stunningly beautiful.

Ring of Brodgar

The next stop is the Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle with a diameter of just over hundred meters. After more than 4,000 years, twenty seven of the original sixty stones are still in a perfect circle. It is almost certain that the stones mark important positions of the sun and moon. Some are scratched with runes – Orkney was part of Norway until about 1500 – others with contemporary letters. They are markers in time that accentuate old age. Walking over the raised ring I feel nothing but awe. This is not only due to the historical significance of the stones, but also due to the sophisticated location in the landscape. Everything shows that this was once a very special place. Hesitantly, I occasionally put my hand on a stone.

Ness of Brodgar (an archeological dig at Neolithic Orkney)

The bus continues the tour through neolithic Orkney on a narrow headland between two lochs, one sweet and one salt. Here is the Ness of Brodgar. Since its discovery in 2003, archaeologists have been busy researching over fourteen archeological structures, the oldest of which was built around 3000 BC. There is a good chance that there are many more Neolithic remains underground in the near surroundings.

Stones of Stenness

Immediately after the Ness is another stone circle; the standing stones of Stenness. Here are four of the twelve stones in a circle with a diameter of 30 meters. Smaller than Brodgar, but built a 1000 years earlier. The highest stone measures five meters. They are a few centimeters narrow and slanted. Our coach driver tells us that the stones point to specific points in the sky. I have not read anything like this in the literature, but it could just be true.

Maeshowe

A little further away is an absolute highlight of the Neolithic architecture Maeshowe: is a burial mound with a fourteen meter long entrance that leads to a square room of approximately twenty square meters. Vikings left behind a huge amount of runes here. Would they have known that on the shortest day the midwinter sun shines straight in? And that the position of the seven-meter-high hill was measured by the way in which the sunlight shines over the hills in winter time?

Goodbye to Neolithic Orkney

I will never forget how the summer sun lit up the monuments on this amazing day. After this neolithic highlight, I no longer visit Stone Age any monuments this holiday. Loch Ness, Loch Lomond, Glasgow and the River Tweed are still planned. Also beautiful. Back in the Netherlands I follow the reports about Neolithic Orkney. The finding of thirty buildings does not surprise me, because everything already seemed possible to me in this magical place. One of the buildings may have been a prehistoric sauna. Why not? Orkney will continue to fascinate me for a long time.

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Sketches

Sketch of Kilclooney Dolmen

Sketches are fantastic! They are small works of art in which you see that professionals do not shy away from spontaneity. These exciting experiments have beautiful fast lines and accidentally created spots that can be very beautiful. A sketch is the place where coincidence gets a chance and unexpected surprises arise. Happy little accidents are often found in the sketch.

Wallpaper

I see it happening in the quick drawings of fellow artists and in my own work. I myself have several sketchbooks. Some contain sturdy paper on which I can use paint without warping. I also often use sheets from wallpaper books. Beautiful samples of different colors and structures, cheaper than paper. I dare to do everything on it. It doesn’t matter if something fails. Strangely enough, the result never disappoints. At the end I always see something that I find interesting.

My favorite sketchbook

My favorite sketchbook at the moment is not big. The thick sheets have a gray brownish color that give the drawings their own atmosphere and mutual continuity. I mainly use watercolor paint and fine liners. I usually start with water. Lots of water. Then thin paint follows. I apply thick paint later. Finally, I draw the lines with fine liners with points of different thickness.

Everything can happen in sketches

When I start I never know exactly where it will end. Everything can happen. Running paint, stains, mistakes, you name it. Sometimes I evoke coincidence with salt, tissues or water. In that respect it is strange that there is always a recognizable Neolithic monument at the end. A dolmen for instance. Maybe that’s what makes the experiment so much fun; you can do the craziest things and yet something comes out. Maybe not in the way I expect, but always in a way that surprises me.

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Barbizon of the north

Poster

The Dutch province of Drenthe inspires. Famous Dutch painters Jozef Israëls, Hendrik Willem Mesdag and Vincent van Gogh share that opinion. Drents Museum, in collaboration with Drents Landschap, exhibit beautiful paintings in Barbizon of the north. The subject is the discovery of the Drenthe landscape from 1850 to 1950. The best news: There are Dutch dolmens on some paintings.

En plein air

After the invention of paint in a tube and the field easel, artists can work in nature at the end of the nineteenth century. Or “En plein air” as it is called in artist circles. With wind, sun rays and fresh air! That is a huge improvement compared to working in the studio, where contact with the landscape is a lot more distant. Perhaps the most important thing is that in the field the subtle effect of light can be seen in all its aspects. In this way, it can become more realistic on a painting with quick strokes. The road to impressionism is open.

Barbizon

The first place where painters come together in the nineteenth century to paint in the open air is Barbizon. It lies close to Fontainebleau, just south of Paris. It is easily accessible for painters such as Théodore Rousseau, Jean Baptiste Corot and Jean-François Millet. With moody colors, they shape their realistic art from 1830 to 1870 on the spot. The idea is catching on in other European countries. Artist colonies appear everywhere. Tervuren in Belgium or Skagen in Denmark for instance.

Barbizon of the North

The Netherlands have several places where artists meet and enjoy nature. Domburg and Bergen are perhaps the best known. But don’t forget Drenthe! Hamlets like Zweeloo, Rolde and Vries attract very skilled painters. They often linger for years and make beautiful artwork. The best known is Vincent van Gogh. He travels to the poor peat soils and makes socially realistic art. This is in contrast to the rest, which mainly depicts the wild nature of the sandy soils. Barbizon of the north shows how virtuoso they are in it.

Dolmens

Personally, I am particularly interested in the art of dolmens. I see beautiful paintings at the exhibition in the Drents Museum:

  1. 1861: The dolmen of Tynaarlo by Willem Roelofs.
  2. 1861: The dolmen of Tynaarlo by Alexander Mollinger.
  3. 1862: Dolmen by Hendrik Dirk Kruseman van Elten.
  4. Unknown: Dolmen by Hendrik Kruseman van Elten.
  5. 1882: Dolmen in the Emmerdennen by Willem Wenckebach.
  6. 1927: Dolmen at Eext by Johan Briedé (twice).
  7. 1983: Old cemetery near Loon by Berend Groen.
  8. Unknown: Dolmen at Evertsbos near Anloo by Roos Bosnak – Nagtegaal.

And that is not all. More works of art with dolmens are shown in the accompanying exhibition book. The depot and the outside world hide even more treasures. The variety of works in the exhibition is large. The art of the pointillist Briedé is particularly noticeable, as is the stylized dolmen of Berend Groen with no tree or shrub.

Notes

I make some notes myself in my little book and start working with watercolor and fineliner. I choose three works. Firstly, that of Bosnak-Nagtegaal because of the angular pointed shapes and the contrast between red and green. The next is the dolmen in the Emmerdennen by Wenckebach, because there is so much air and space in it. Finally, I venture into the dolmen of Kruseman van Elten, mainly because I feel like indulging in the contrast of blue and orange in the sunset. Yes, I love color contrasts and I enjoy releasing them on dolmens.

Conclusion

Drenthe inspires. Then and now. I think it is wonderful to see how artists interpret dolmens in their paintings and I try to learn from them by looking closely and reinterpreting. In addition, it is also enchanting to see how skilled hands of countless painters capture other parts of the Drenthe landscape and the people who live in it. It is a pitty that these works are only together for a short time, but at the same time it is wonderful that it is possible to view them in this context.

The exhibition “Barbizon of the North” can be seen from November 24, 2019 to March 22, 2020 in the Drents Museum in Assen.

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Dutch dolmens

D53 Havelte-W

The Dutch dolmens in the province of Drenthe greatly determine the general image of the province. Every Dutchman knows them. The historical context, on the other hand, is less known. Here you can read who built them and why. If you are curious enough to visit a real Dutch dolmen, you can also read a few tips.

One of two dolmens at Havelte
One of two dolmens at Havelte

Dutch dolmen or hunebed

The Dutch call their dolmens ‘hunebedden’. Many definitions are conceivable for a hunebed. One has enough of “a very old pile of stones,” where the other can do more with a description like “a megalithic burial chamber from the Neolithic period (4000-3000 BC) that consists of at least three standing supporting stones and that is covered by at least one covering stone. ” In essence, it means that a hunebed is the remnant of a burial mound that the first farmers of the area built in late prehistory. There are different types with different characteristics; large, small, one room, more rooms, long corridor, short corridor, with a kink in the corridor, without corridor, with stone wreath and so on. In the Netherlands we mainly know the so-called portal graves.

Where can I Find Dutch dolmens or Hunebedden?

You can find dolmens in all places, also outside of Europe. They are even in the United States and Japan. So it seems that almost every people who had access to stones and boulders used them at some point to build something. There are just over fifty hunebedden in The Netherlands. That is peanuts compared to countries such as England, France, Germany and Denmark. There you’ll find hundreds of them there. The Netherlands never had that much. Not in the past either. The remaining Dutch dolmens in Drenthe lie mainly in a line from Zuidlaren to Emmen, in the eastern part of the province. Burial mounds from al later period are found in a much greater area.

Who built the Dutch dolmens?

The Dutch dolmens are from prehistoric times. That means that the builders have left no texts about who they were, what they believed or what they did. All knowledge about them has come to us thanks to archeological finds. For example, we know that they made earthenware pots in the form of funnels. That is why historians often call the builders of Dutch dolmens the farmers of the Funnel Beaker Culture. Because we know for sure that they were farmers. They had small fields on the forest edges where they grew for example wheat and lentils. Nevertheless, they also collected berries and other food in the forests. And besides that they hunted and fished.

Why were Dutch dolmens made?

The Funnel Beaker Culture did not only occur in the Netherlands, but extended to Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Poland. It existed from around 3400 to 2850 BC. It is obvious to think that land was very important for these first farmers and that they therefore build a large hill to leave their mark on the territory and bury their dead. There is reason to think that the dead were sometimes (partially) removed from the burial mound on special occasions and played a role between the living. But of course we don’t know that for sure.

How to build a dolmen in The Low Countries?

During the ice age large stones came to The Netherlands with the advancing ice. The ice disappeared, the stones remained. The farmers of the Funnel Beaker Culture made the skeleton of a burial mound out of it. They filled the space between the stones with smaller boulders and covered it with earth. Sometimes they put a boulder ring around it. Every community built its dolmen in its own way. They probably used wooden logs for this. They served as leverage. Hunebed builders could also roll stones over it. By making a mound of sand, they were able to raise the stone. Certainly if neighboring villages came to help and oxen were deployed, there was more than enough muscle power available.

Dutch Dolmen: D43 Schimmeres
D43 Schimmeres

What has happened all these years?

The first period after the Funnel Beaker Culture did not entail any spectacular developments for the hunebedden. New generations even occasionally added a deceased person. There was hardly any destruction. That started in the Middle Ages, often because of the pagan origins, but also to reuse the building material. Dozens of Dutch Dolmens disappeared, also outside Drenthe. The first research began in the 17th century and a century later the hunebedden were given protected status. Today the Hunebedden Beheergroep takes care of the unique monuments. Unfortunately, it cannot prevent occasional accidental destruction, for instance by fire or climbing.

What is the best way to see Dutch dolmens?

Persons who want to see The Dutch dolmen have several options. For example, there is a special visitor center near the largest hunebed in the Netherlands in Borger. The visitor receives a good view of the history of the Dutch dolmens. Another possibility is to follow the N34 by car, also known as the Hunebed Highway. This is a route along which there are many fine specimens. I prefer a walk or bike ride to a specific dolmen. That gives me plenty of time to see the area and to experience the dolmen quietly.

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Magical Avebury: Don’t miss these top three sights!

Avebury is extremely impressive, almost magical. A prehistoric super place that you should not miss when you are in England. You can hang around for days. If you don’t have the time, visit these three sights.

Avebury

Strangely enough, most tourists go to Stonehenge, which is 45 minutes by car to the south. They probably do not know that Avebury is much more attractive for real stone age monument enthusiasts. It has more, older and larger sights. For example, on Windmill Hill – one and a half kilometers outside the village – there are ring patterns from 5600 years ago. On the other side of the village is an old demolished sanctuary. The disappeared stones from the circles are now part of the houses in the village. It are not the only boulders that are missing. In Avebury, for example, ancient paths run between locations. Some of them were flanked by hundreds of stones. Unfortunately, most of them are no longer there.

Water in magical Avebury

The reason that the early farmers put so much effort into transforming this landscape is probably the presence of numerous natural sources. They are especially visible in the winter, when the limestone rocks below the ground become saturated with water. Here and there brooks and ponds arise. That must have made a big impression on the first inhabitants of the area. However, the hill, the sanctuary, the trails and the springs are not the three absolute highlights of Avebury’s sights. Those toppers are described below. The tourist with a limited amount of time is advised to start with this.

1.The stone circle and the henge

The stones are located inside an enormous round earthen wall with a ditch around it. This is the henge. It has a radius of 180 meters. Two intersecting roads run through it. There are several houses on it, including an old country house (Avebury Manor) with a beautifully landscaped garden. The visitor center, the food service and the souvenir shop are also located within the henge. Because there is so much to see and experience, a stay quickly takes several hours. It is fascinating to view and touch the capriciously shaped stones up close. A view from the five-meter high wall in the deep ditch is particularly impressive. Certainly with the knowledge that the height difference used to be several meters larger. This is prehistoric landscape development on a large scale! (By the way, I’ve made two artworks of the stone circle: ‘Avebury from above‘ and ‘Raising the dead in Avebury‘.)

  • Stones at the henge at Avebury
  • Silbury Hill
  • One of five chambers in West Kennet Longbarrow

2. West Kennet Longbarrow

One and a half kilometers outside the henge is a structure that is almost as old as the excavation work on Windmill Hill. It is a long grave. Like everything in magical Avebury, the size is disproportionate. More than a hundred meters. To top it all off, West Kennet Longbarrow contains a corridor with five burial chambers. The deepest room catches the light of the setting sun on the shortest day. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that these burial chambers, just like the ones constructed elsewhere, seem to be built for resonance at a certain frequency. The noise that can arise as a result is enormous. This makes hearing of certain musical instruments a frightening event. As if the dead are rising!

3. Silbury Hill

Of all the magical sights in Avebury, Silbury Hill perhaps raises the most questions. This artificial hill, which is over 30 meters high, is so large that Stonehenge fits effortlessly on the flat top. The ditch around it provided the building material. This was originally nine meters deep. Water runs in during the winter. This suggests that this largest artificial hill in Europe served as a kind of sacred place for water observation. Harmful tunnel research from the past yielded nothing. No burial chambers full of gold or potsherds, no human sacrifices, nothing at all. Only limestone, gravel and earth.

tips for magical Avebury

  • Admission to the sights of Avebury is free. Parking costs money, except for members of The National Trust. They can also go to Avebury Manor and the exhibitions for free.
  • The paths between the above three attractions are reasonably easy to walk on. They are grassy paths. The total length is around four kilometers. Watch out when crossing, especially if you are used to vehicles driving on the right: The traffic comes first from the right and then from the left!
  • Steve Marshall wrote a beautiful book with the title “Exploring Avebury. The essential guide. His site exploringavebury.com is also among the better on the subject. The photo material alone makes a visit worthwhile.
  • England is full of the most beautiful neolithic monuments. Look at the artworks that I made of it.
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Leonardo da Vinci; The Virgin of the Rocks

Madonna of the dolmen

What can a contemporary painter do with the art of this Tuscan genius? Is the artwork of Leonardo da Vinci nowadays intimidating or inspiring? I’ll find out when I make my own interpretation of ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’.

Perfect

It is five hundred years after the death of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). His light shines into this century and perhaps even further. For me mainly as a painter: Sturdy (pyramidal) compositions, soft color gradients, small details. The works of art seem technical perfect. They are engraved in the collective memory. Watching a Da Vinci means seeing a lot of craftsmanship. It is almost intimidating for a painter like me. Is there nothing to criticize?

Virgin of the Rocks

If you look closely you will see small shortcomings. On ‘The Virgin of the Rocks‘ for example. I notice that the angel is depicted smaller than Mary. Nevertheless, he is in the picture before her. Is Mary so big or is the celestial being so small? I personally suspect a mistake in the design of the painting. And if I look closely at Da Vinci’s oeuvre, I see more crazy mistakes. The most striking are the muscular arms and silly breasts on some of his female portraits. Probably the result of using male models instead of real ladies. That is most evident in a portrait from his school entitled ‘Donna Nuda‘, a parody of ‘Mona Lisa’. As an experiment, I make my own interpretation of it.

Donna Nuda (A Tribute to the School of Leonardo da Vinci)

Miró

Leonardo was great in his time. Do new insights make his work obsolete? The paintings and drawings of Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Joan Miró demonstrate that abstraction, color and spontaneity can achieve at least as strong results as perfect realism. Da Vinci has never seen ‘Guernica‘. He could not have painted something like that. The modern approach was beyond his reach. And there I see opportunities.

Explorations

Strengthened by modern art, I explore the ways of abstraction from Leonardo’s artworks. I dare to omit details in favor of more (exaggerated) expression, distinct colors and a schematic design. It produces a number of very nice sketches. I also know that they will never hang out at the Louvre, but nevertheless I find them interesting enough to continue the chosen path.

Virgin

I start with ‘Madonna of the Rocks’. A strange painting. There are two versions of it. Leonardo da Vinci painted the first from 1483 to 1486. ​​In 1491 he started with a new version. He worked on that until 1508. The average spectator may wonder why, because the differences are limited; a few colors, some attributes and an attitude. Both are technically advanced work. I base my interpretation on the later version that nowadays hangs in the National Gallery in London.

Uriel

The painting shows two adults and two small children: Mary, Jesus, John the Baptist and Uriel. Who? Uriel! He is an ecclesiastical archangel that appeared to Noah. He also moved Zechariah and Elizabeth to leave Israel and join Joseph and Mary in Egypt. The final encounter is the situation we see in the Da Vinci painting.

Playful

With geometric shapes, playful lines and primary colors I try to capture the essence of ‘Virgin of the Rocks’. It must remain recognizable for everyone who knows the original. And it must tell the same story in a contemporary way to viewers who do not yet know the original. The rocks give way to a dolmen, especially as a reference to the meaning of the scene in an eternal context. The result is more playful than the original version. Looser. More modern. Less technical, more symbolic. The composition and the arrangement get more emphasis and the colors are more pronounced.

Leda

Strengthened by the result, I try ‘Leda and the swan‘. The Tuscan master made various sketches from 1504. A painting followed in 1508. It tells the story of the young Leda. Jupiter appears to her in the form of a swan and seduces her. The result is that she lays four eggs. They produce four beautiful children: Castor, Pollux, Clytemnestra and Helen. In the Leonardo painting we see them crawling out of their eggs. Or rather: we saw them crawling out of their eggs. The artwork was last seen in a French royal palace. After that it disappeared without a trace. Probably destroyed because of the offensive nature.

Eggs

Fortunately, we still have three original sketches and different copies of the painting. They give me enough basis to make my own interpretation. This time I choose to stay closer to the original. Perhaps from a sort of compensation urge. The loss cannot be made good, but I can try to alleviate the suffering. My own input mainly consists of a dolmen and the omission of the children. Personally I find them too distracting on the reconstructions and disturbing on the composition. That is why they go into their eggs with me.

Inspiration

In the end I am happy that I dared to take on this challenge. I have made something new that, despite the source of inspiration and the old story, has a contemporary and personal appearance. But more importantly: I have learned a lot by carefully studying the original work of Leonardo. Returning to the question whether his work is inspiring or intimidating, I can answer: Both! But those who get over their fears will find a lot of inspiration.

See the final results of my Da Vinci project in the shop under the tribute category.

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Art about the environment

Harry Wibier and his six paintings on earth and humans

People have had influence on the environment since the Stone Age. The last two hundred years it has gone beyond limits. That worries me. That is why I made some art about the environment.

Animal species have been disappearing for millions of years. Not in all cases through human action. But increasingly. The turning point lies in the disappearance of the mega fauna. It is not exactly clear what part humans precisely have in it. The main culprit is probably the climate. There is, however, a connection with the human advance. Where humans appear, large animal species such as mammoths and aurochs disappear.

Bees

The first thing I think about with endangered or extinct animal species is oddly not the panda, the white rhino, the Tasmanian tiger or the dodo. It’s the bees. And the fish species that were naturally on my plate in my youth, but are now available to a limited extent. That is because I actively play a role in it; I can buy, grow or catch food that does not contribute to extinction. Fish with a label and organic vegetables. No poison in the vegetable garden. As far as I’m concerned, of course, but within my own vegetable garden association there are many members who do not understand my environmentally conscious approach. They look with compassion at the in their opinion modest harvest that I get from my plot.

Sketches for art about the environment

Waste

Waste is also something that I and my family consciously deal with. We don’t have to separate the plastic in our city, but we do it anyway. We don’t want that mess in nature. At the same time, I am appalled at the enormous amount of harmful substances that some industry dumps into our environment and the ecological damage it causes. Logging and emissions worry me. Just like in the vegetable garden, I can unfortunately only take responsibility for my own behavior and only say something about that of others. And then my influence ends. Except when I’m going to make art about the environment.

Art about the environment

Back to prehistory. Even then there were climate changes. Ice ages and warm periods alternated. The sea level dropped and rose. But not as fast as now and not as a result of human actions. And then also animal species disappeared. Dinosaurs for example. But not because of brutal, ruthless, soiling and hunting humans. People who don’t care (enough) for our planet and it’s worth for future generations. They only seem interested in luxury and profit. Perhaps progress made us more primitive than ever. That’s why I made six paintings on humans and their environment. And I made them in the somewhat cheerful, primitive style that I partly copied from Joan Miró. Not because I don’t take the message seriously, but because I know that a serious message in a serious style is not inviting. My intention is to make people look and not to make them look away. The visual link with primitive rock drawings is of course included; I went for symbolism, not for realism.

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Lanyon Quoit; a beautiful dolmen in Cornwall

Storm

For thousands of years, the dolmen Lanyon Quoit is proudly standing on the bare heather-covered hilly landscape of Cornwall. The capstone is so high on four load-bearing stones that a man can ride under it on his horse. Until 1815. It is the year that Napoleon abdicates. Storms plague Europe, including the United Kingdom. Lanyon Quoit collapses. A bearing stone is irreparably damaged. The locals are very concerned; there are many more neolithic monuments in the area, but not as high as this one. Recovery is desired. Action follows. In 1924 there is enough money. Captain Giddy of the Royal Navy coordinates the restoration. But what rises no longer resembles the old dolmen. The result has three supporting stones and is man-sized. The neolithic monument never will shine in its former glory again.

Stronger and lower

Is that bad? For historians and archaeologists, it is a major loss. Less for lovers of beauty. The capstone is stronger and lower, but also more beautiful. Perhaps it is now even the most beautiful dolmen of Cornwall. It delivers an impressing picture from almost every point of view. There are thousands of photos on the Internet. That does not mean that it is still bare and windy in the deserted landscape around Lanyon Quoit. You will not find souvenir shops, ticket counters or tourist dreams here. But search and you will find a magical site; this megalithic wonder lies to the north-west of Penzance, 50 meters west of the road from Madron to Morvah.

Enchantment

I saw the stones of Lanyon Quoit for the first time on my computer screen. The image captivated me. The photos immediately went in a special folder where I keep images of iconic dolmens, especially for future painting projects. After a while I started painting on pieces of wallpaper of 24 x 32 centimeters. First two pieces. Then I did something that I hadn’t done for years. I watercolor. Twice. I like the result, but nevertheless I returned to the wallpaper, because I intended to make primitive drawings. Like old Scandinavian images with a strong narrative character. Under the spell of Lanyon Quoit, I imagine adventures, legends and myths from times long past. With a bit of luck you know how to derive them from the last three paintings on wallpaper.

Inspiration

Incidentally, I have visited many more dolmen in England than just Lanyon Quoit. The country is full of the most beautiful neolithic monuments. I often get inspired by the memories I have of my travels through England and Scotland and I paint the scenes I saw there.

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Brutkamp in Albersdorf

A town in the north of Germany. Lots of Neolithic sites. My favorite in Albersdorf is Brutkamp, a dolmen with a capstone of 23 tons.

Albersdorf

The town of Albersdorf is located north of Hamburg in Scheswig-Holstein. The Wadden Sea is not far away. I am here with the intention to move on to Denmark. Walking through Albersdorf I wonder why. Nature and history are rich here. The weather appears to be summery and stable. I speak friendly people. Staying becomes an option.

Stone Age park

I have seen reconstructions of Stone Age villages like in the Steinzeitpark Dithmarschen more often. This time I am also impressed by the solid structures and their practical approach. Local volunteers wear neolithic clothing. They enthusiastically explain aspects of daily life. How to bake bread. And how to shoot a piece of meat with a bow and arrow. For a moment I think the new Stone Age is very close. At a lake for example. The hut and the smoldering fire give the impression that the resident has just left. I look carefully around me. Within the boundaries of the park are a burial mound and remains of an earthen wall. There is more outside the fence.

Long barrow

A path takes me into the forest between a meadow and the Stone Age park. With a card in my hand, I go looking for a total of three neolithic grave sites and a burial mound. Somewhere there is also a stone reconstruction of a grave. I will skip that one. The long graves are not the most beautiful ones I have ever seen. The stones are crooked. The forest seems to be slowly taking over the settlement. It is special. Three elongated colossi with stone rooms. More than regular dolmens, these graves remind me of spaceships. Solid means of transport for the last trip.

Papenbusch

The center of Albersdorf is a few minutes’ drive from the Stone Age Park. I park the car at the station and walk into the nearby park. Two plates each point to a dolmen. The first is nevertheless not easy to find. Papenbusch lies behind a few bushes. It appears to be a hangout. I deduce that from the packaging materials for food and drink products that are scattered here and there. The monument is small and partly located in the ground. Only the only covering stone rises. It is not large. I am bored with a few minutes.

Brutkamp in Albersdorf

Brutkamp

The main attraction is in a small park on an elevation between a number of houses. Brutkamp is the name of this colossus that has the heaviest cover stone of Schleswig-Holstein. I am impressed by the size, the beautiful location and the amount of stones. This was once a hill. Now that only the skeleton remains and the wind is blowing between the bearing stones, it appears how vain and perishable is the fruit of heavy labor. What remains is a stone, carried by its lesser ones. I will stay for an hour and know that I am going to paint this monument.

Painting

When I pick up the brushes a month later, I mainly try to play with the weight and the shape of the solid capstone and the small, empty, glaring darkness below. I create five artworks in the course of a few days. Four are reasonably abstract and made on wallpaper. They are in the gallery. One is made on quality paper and that is the most realistic of the five. As I paint, I realize I didn’t make it to Denmark; Schleswig-Holstein proved too good for a transit.