Aad in 't Veld Archive

Portret Jan Schoonhoven

In November 2023, the RKD acquired from Aad in 't Veld a binder containing drawn plans and letters by Jan Schoonhoven (1914-1994). This small archive is a beautiful and valuable addition to the archives of the Nul group already present in the RKD.

Jan Schoonhoven and the Nul group

For years, Jan Schoonhoven worked as a civil servant at the PTT in The Hague, while making art in the evenings. In 1957, he founded the Nul group, the Dutch version of the Zero movement, together with Henk Peeters and Armando. The artists of the Nul group were looking for a new objective art in which there was no room for emotional expressions and art that was accessible to everyone.

Portret Jan Schoonhoven
Pieter Boersma, Portrait of Jan Schoonhoven in front of two of his pieces in Galerie Orez, 1979, collection RKD

Reliefs of cardboard

Initially, Schoonhoven made reliefs with an irregular structure of ribbed cardboard and toilet rolls. From 1960, these reliefs became increasingly regular in shape. He placed cardboard walls on a plywood background, creating rows of geometric figures. These walls are then covered with newspaper and painted with matt white paint. Schoonhoven's main concern is the effect of light and shadow. Schoonhoven's drawings from this period are always composed of dashes, squares, dots and other shading in which the effect of light is also important.

Aanwijzingen van Jan Schoonhoven aan Aad in ’t Veld
Notes of Jan Schoonhoven to Aad in ’t Veld, 1975, collection RKD


Schoonhoven became increasingly successful with his reliefs in particular, and demand for them grew. Not wanting to give up his job as a civil servant (and thus his daily rhythm), he initially hired a number of assistants to work on reliefs for him, including, from 1970, Aad in 't Veld. A few years later, In 't Veld remained Schoonhoven's only assistant. Schoonhoven sent his assistant many sketches and letters during this period with instructions on how to make the reliefs. Many of these works were made by In 't Veld at the kitchen table of his Delft home, then, as production increased, in a designated studio.

Archive of Aad in ’t Veld

Jan Schoonhoven's more than 150 sketches, letters and notes were transferred to the RKD by In 't Veld late last year. This valuable archive offers much insight into the origins of many of Schoonhoven's famous reliefs and especially about his working methods and those of his main assistant Aad in 't Veld. The latter stated in an interview in de Volkskrant a few years ago: 'You have to see it like this: Jan was the architect, I was the executor. He drew the house, I built it.'

Briefje van Jan Schoonhoven aan Aad in ’t Veld
Letter from Jan Schoonhoven to Aad in ’t Veld, 1972, collection RKD