In his art studio in Rotterdam Overschie, Willem Stoop works diligently on a portrait of a Norwegian brewer. His work table stands in a large, relatively empty space, scattered with his artwork. A corner wall near the door is covered in vinyl albums. The painting is laid out in front of him on the table flanked by his paint palettes. The portraits require a steady hand, which is why he doesn’t paint them on an easel, where gravity can lead to unwanted strokes. His newest art project is eclectic and unique, marrying the best of both the art and craft beer world. Though it is not finished yet, I was allowed a sneak peek in his studio to see the paintings that he has produced so far and hear more about the inspiration and ideas that led to this interesting project.
The fact that I am writing this article means that it involves beer, but that stems more from a coincidence than premeditated intent. An old book by Lionelli Venturi on Sandro Botticelli that Willem has had for many years and his love of the Renaissance age were the original inspiration for the portrait series. He first started with some of the painter’s formidable Madonnas. Botticelli was known for the vividness and vitality in his depiction of the human form, which are clearly evident in two of his most famous paintings Primavera and The Birth of Venus. He also painted several frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and was an acclaimed Flortentine artist during his time.
Next, Willem started featuring friends and family as Renaissance figures. It so happens that one of them, Ben Karreman of beer store Karreman Biermeesters in Rotterdam, regularly accompanies him on beer tasting adventures and beer festivals. On one of these beer trips to Brouwerij Boon in October 2021, Ben audaciously showed his own portrait to Frank Boon and asked him if he would agree to being featured in the project. To which Frank Boon said ‘yes’!
Thus began what I have coined the “Brewers’ Renaissance”, where art meets craft beer; a fitting title for the renowned brewers selected for this project, who have had a significant impact on development and revival of the (craft) beer world. Frank Boon’s painting is based on ‘Portrait of a Man’ by Andrea Mantegna, an Italian Renaissance artist whose many artworks are now exhibited in museums all over the world. Both portraits of Brouwerij Noordt’s brewmaster Peter Rouwen and Heineken’s brewmaster Willem van Waesberghe were originally painted by the even more famous Raphael.
The aim is to produce at least twenty portraits, which is the minimum amount Willem feels he needs to be able to organize a proper exhibition. The reactions from brewers have been very encouraging. So far fourteen (of which three women) have given their commitment, representing a variety of countries, such as Belgium, England, United States and even Australia. I hope this will lead to many more enthusiastic responses, for example from legendary Anchor Brewing and Brooklyn Brewery.
Only the ones featured in the photos in this article have seen their portrait and can be named. When the project is finished and ready to be shown to the public, I will write a sequence to this article to share location and dates of the coming exhibition. Keep an eye out on my social media for part 2!
Read more about Rotterdam based artist Willem Stoop here on his website: https://www.doubleyouart.nl.
All photos were taken by Tina Rogers, unless otherwise specified.