Back to All Events

John Schoonderwoert | Ethereal Okanagan

John Schoonderwoert was born in 1930 in Enschede, a city in the east of Holland. He was introduced to art at an early age as before WWII his father earned a living selling his pastels and oil paintings. There were many books in the family home about drawing, painting and art in general. On Sunday afternoons if they weren’t going for walks in the countryside, the family often visited the Rijksmuseum in Enschede. It was subsidized by the government so it could afford to acquire a lot of valuable objects, especially paintings. Also, rich owners of local textile factories gave or lent paintings to the museum where there were many halls, each containing paintings of a particular period, from Flemish Primitives to Golden Age (17th Century) and Romantic schools to the Haagse school (2nd half of 19th Century). The influence of the Haagse school can be seen in the style of John’s paintings.

After the war John had lessons from an art teacher who taught him to do portraits. He also did a course at the Academy of Arts in Eschede. Meanwhile, his father had opened a photography studio where John helped and learned to hand colour black and white photographs. During his compulsory national service John was assigned to the photography division of the Dutch Army in Den Haag, allowing him to get experience with other methods and equipment.

In 1953, drawn by what he had read in Jack London’s books and the photographs sent by his uncle who had emigrated to Canada, John crossed the Atlantic and joined his uncle and family in the Okanagan where they had two photo studios, Sunderwood studios in Penticton and Summerland. At first, John worked a variety of jobs as he got to know BC, spending one summer travelling with a carnival. In 1955, he started work in the Penticton studio which he then bought in 1959. John’s calm nature can be seen in the relaxed expressions in his portraits, some of which were hand coloured at that time.

Wanting more time for doing photography for himself and painting, in the mid 60’s John gave up the store and did construction work for L&L Signs. Not wanting it to influence the style of his painting John didn’t want to do any of the art work. As the construction was not done in the winter months he would be laid off, giving him time to spend on his detailed full figure nude paintings. Then, in 1975, John “retired” so that he could work on his home and develop a photography dark room and a studio for painting where he would then spend much time working on his next piece accompanied by his cup of tea and pipe with classical music in the background

It was the wilderness that lured John to Canada and while hiking, cross country skiing, sailing, and camping in the Okanagan (he said that if you lived in paradise why did you need to travel outside) a camera was always at his side to record ideas for future paintings, many of which reflect his gentle way of living in the moment and are now used by people as a means of contemplation during a hectic life.

Sadly, after a short illness, John passed away on August 3, 2012 at the age of 82, leaving many images of his time in the Okanagan on canvas and paper.


Later Event: September 18
Alexandra Goodall | MicrocosmoSoma