The goal of Marius van Beek

Marius van Beek (1921-2003) has his own special place in modern Dutch sculpture. The names of Mendes da Costa en Zijl, Rädecker and Polet, Andriessen and Wezelaar and, finally, Esser and Couzijn form the stepping stones of the great tradition he issued from, and for a long time felt closely connected to. The academic teaching of Bronner was both consequence and cause of this tradition. As a young artist van Beek adored the book Uit de werkplaatsen der beeldhouwers [From the workshops of sculptors] (Amsterdam 1943) in which Leo Braat, later to be a sculptor and journalist as was van Beek, reported on his studio visits to the leaders of modern Dutch sculpture including some of the names mentioned above. At that moment people agreed that for the first time in centuries the Netherlands could boast its own sculpture and it was against this background of euphoria that we must place van Beek’s enrolment in the sculpture class of the Amsterdam Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten. It was the legendary Bronner who accepted his application, but he was taught mainly by Bronner’s successor Esser who would later become a good friend. With Theresia van der Pant and the Hettema brothers he was one of the first crop from the Esser school. In the fifties, van Beek’s friendship with Esser brought him into the metropolitan circle of sculptors, a group whose solidarity and collegiality took on almost intimate forms. As art critic he continued Braat’s activities, for in his publications van Beek demanded attention again and again for his blood brothers, initially in the form of reviews (daily newspaper De Tijd), but in the last twenty years of his life especially in reminiscences coloured by nostalgia (in Kunstbeeld and other publications). His memorial articles about older colleagues like Krop, Rädecker and Andriessen are among the most lovely that have ever been produced in Dutch art history writing. There was also a sharp change of course in his development as sculptor around 1980. While his oeuvre before that time is characterized by a picturesque figuration that took shape in public through numerous monuments, after that date van Beek developed into an exponent of the so-called land art, and it was the authentic power of expression of natural stone and the game the sun plays with our earth that fulfilled his eternal enthusiasm to create. His Goal of Santiago de Chile came into being in what we could call the transitional years of his artistic development, since in using the traditional means of the sculptor — the modelled figuration — Marius van Beek attempted to mould space to his will in this monument. Its strong literary impact has made the Goal a lasting monument to his committed endeavour. Marius van Beek himself, with his sense of understatement, disposed of his most famous work with: ‘After all, somehow or other I have been useful as a sculptor.’

Jan Teeuwisse, Beelden aan Zee Museum director