Surprise, surprise!

Who would expect to find a portrait that was said to be lost right after the Second World War?

Recently we received a message from Willemine Zitko-Hofstede from Canada, saying that the portrait that Henk Brouwer made in Changi in 1942 of her father Nicolaas Hofstede was found. In 1979 Nicolaas Hofstede published his memoires about his life in Changi, titled ‘De slaven van Roku Ban’. In this book Hofstede mentions the portrait that Brouwer made of him as a way to thank him for his generosity when he shared some food with Brouwer, who was in poor health. Hofstede writes: ‘After the war this portrait from my time in Changi got lost.’ We couldn’t be more surprised to receive the message of his daughter! A few weeks ago Willemine Hofstede came all the way from Canada to meet her Dutch family. Of course a visit to the exposition in Museum Bronbeek was part of the programme. After almost 75 years she gave a print of her father’s portrait its place in the portrait gallery.

Photo: Willemine Zitko-Hofstede with her father’s portrait in Museum Bronbeek

Artwork rediscovered

Apart from our search for portraits, we also hope to find other artwork of Henk Brouwer. Brouwer worked for the Kolff advertising agency in Batavia from 1935-1940. This week we got hold of a rare copy of the 1936 Christmas edition of ‘d’Orient’, a glossy magazine with several ads drawn by Henk Brouwer. We recognize them by his style and his signature (which differs from his later signature). 

Again a new portrait

While the Bronbeek-expo receives many visitors every day, we continue the search for portraits. And with succes. This week we found the portrait from the Australian Lloyd Cahill, who worked as pow for 6 months on the notorious Death Railway. Back in Australia he didn’t tell his family about his horrifying war experiences. After his death they found some personal belongings hidden in a cupboard. Among them this beautiful portrait Henk Brouwer made of him in Changi. We will add it to our gallery of portraits in Bronbeek. To be seen until 6 January 2019! 

See also our portrait gallery on the website and his little biography.


Brouwer’s ‘silent piano’

One of the great stories in Henk Brouwer’s manuscript tells about a ‘Klankloze Klavier’ (Soundless Piano), as Brouwer calls it. In Changi, Brouwer made a practice piano from waste materials to keep his fingers supple. His fellow inmates laughed at him, but Brouwer took revenge by giving a silent concert, the third part of the second piano concerto by Tchaikovsky. His friends listened breathlessly and treated him to a huge applause at the end.

For the exhibition in Museum Bronbeek we reconstructed this Soundless Piano. Later we found out that Henk Brouwer was not the only one with a soundless practice piano: composers as Mozart and Liszt also had one. Attached a picture of ‘our’ piano and one of a soundless piano at the Lisztmuseum in Raiding, Austria.


Opening exhibition 9 August

Emotional opening of our exhibition ‘Gevangen in beeld’ in Museum Bronbeek, Arnhem. With a posthumous honouring of Landstormsoldier Henk Brouwer: his son Menno came over from South Africa to collect the Mobilisation Cross. With Henk Brouwers work Museum Bronbeek honours an almost forgotten group of Dutch POW’s.

You can visit the exhibition until 6 January 2019. 

Photo’s: Willem van Gerwen & Karin Veenendaal

Australian news

Recently we received two mails from Australia: first from mrs Yvonne McLoughlin, saying that she found the portrait of her father-in-law George James McLoughlin, painted by Henk Brouwer in September 1945 (photo left). A few days later Jennie Perry surprised us with the Henk Brouwer-portrait of Ian Perry, signed 24 October 1944 (photo right). Great additions to our exhibition, that will be opened 9 August at Museum Bronbeek, Arnhem! See the Portrait Gallery for their stories.


Unexpected discovery of Brouwer painting!

Our search for the portraits that Henk Brouwer made in Changi, put us in contact with people from all over the world. This time the daughter of Harry Silman, one of Brouwers fellow inmates in Changi, mailed us from England, saying that she still has a painting that Henk Brouwer gave her father right after liberation, a few days before they were released from Changi Jail. ‘It is a remarkable painting, full of symbolism,’ she says. ‘It shows the sick and injured POWs in Changi; whether you lived or died was a game of chance. It also symbolizes the medical help that my father, who was a docter, tried to give. After liberation the survivors walk out of Changi (top right) on a path made by the doctor’s
(?) arm, towards the setting sun.’ A great discovery of a meaningful piece of art!

What a way to start the new year!

Good news about Henk Brouwers artwork! Thanks to the good observation of Museum Bronbeek 27 beautiful drawings of Henk Brouwer have been discovered! Brouwer produced them in 1947 on request of the Dutch naval preacher Siebren Oegema, who wrote down his war experiences in the Dutch East Indies in a manuscript. Unfortunately the manuscript was never published, but it was securely kept, together with Brouwers drawings, in the archives of the NIMH, the Dutch Institute for Military History.

The drawings illlustrate the bitter story of Siebren Oegema’s war years on Java, where he suffered severely from the cruelties of the Japanese occupier. Together the manuscript and the drawings give a shrill testimony of what people had to endure, not only under the Japanese occupation but during the Indonesian struggle for independance as well. We will present the drawings in the Bronbeek exhibition, but here’s a little foretaste.

We found another portrait!

After our call in Aanspraak, the magazine for resistance fighters and war victims of the Dutch Sociale Verzekeringsbank, the daughter of Mr Ad van de Nagel gave us a call. She told us that her father had also been imprisoned in Changi. Ad van der Nagel, born in Rotterdam in 1903, joined the army in the Dutch East-Indies when he was 18. After fulfilling his military service, he first worked at a cocoa plantation in Sumatra, then moved to a plantation in the east of Java. During the mobilization in 1941 he was conscripted into the army; almost a year later he was imprisoned by the Japanese. Januari 1943 he ended up in Changi, where he was portrayed by his fellow-inmate Henk Brouwer.