Biography of Constant Nieuwenhuys

With approval of the authors this biography is a free translation from the biography in Après nous la liberté. Constant en de artistieke avant-garde in de jaren 1946-1960 by Marcel Hummelink, published in 2003 and later adapted for Constant. De late periode by Trudy van der Horst, published in 2008.

1920
July 21st Constant Nieuwenhuys is born in Amsterdam as the first child of Pieter Nieuwenhuijs and Maria Cornelissen. According to Constant's offical birthregister his name is Constant Anton Nieuwenhuijs. Maybe due to his international affiliations Constant wrote his own name with a y instead of an ij, as Nieuwenhuys.

1922
Constant’s brother, Jan Nieuwenhuijs, is born.

1926-1933
Constant attends elementary school, Gerardus Majellaschool in Amsterdam.

1933-1938
Constant attends highschool, Sint Ignatius College in Amsterdam.

1938-1939
Constant attends first grade of the Instituut voor Kunstnijverheidsonderwijs (School of Applied Arts) in Amsterdam.

1939-1941
Constant attends first and second grade of the drawing course of the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten (State Academy of Fine Arts) in Amsterdam.

1939
Constant leaves his parent’s house and moves to Eerste Sweelinckstraat in Amsterdam, a studio for both living and working.

1941
Constant moves to a studio-house in Bergen, North Holland on the Sint Anthoniusstraat (behind no 47).

1942
July 13th, Constant marries Matie van Domselaer in Bergen.

1943
Constant and Matie move back to Amsterdam because of the forced evacuation of Bergen. They move into a studio-house next to Sarphatipark 42, called Bollandpark by the Nazis.

1944
November 13th, Constant’s and Matie’s first child, their son, Victor, is born.

1945
In September the family moves into a studio-house at Lijtweg 13 in Bergen.

1946
Constant meets Asger Jorn at a Miró exhibition at Gallery Piere Loeb, Rue de Seine in Paris. This encounter is the start of the Dutch Experimental Group in Holland.

As the result of a house swap with the author, Berthus Aafjes, the family moves back to Amsterdam into a studio-house at the Plantage Franschelaan 25 (the current Henri Polaklaan).

On August 13th, Constant’s and Matie’s second child, their daughter Martha, is born.

1947
Kunstenaars Centrum Bergen is founded by sixty visual artists from Bergen and surroundings.

Constant becomes a member of ‘Stichting der Nederlandse Kunstschilders’ (Foundation of Dutch Painters) and following that membership he becomes part of ‘Beroeps­vereniging van Beeldende kunstenaars’ (Professional Association of Visual Artists) and of ‘Nederlandse Federatie van Beeldend Kun­ste­naarsverenigingen’ (Dutch Federation of Visual Artists Associations).

In December Appel and Corneille get in touch with Constant after hearing about his preparations for the Dutch Experimental Group in Holland (Nederlandse Experimentele groep in Holland). December 16th, ‘Reflex’, magazine of The Experimental Group Holland is founded by Constant, Corneille and Karel Appel.

1948
January 7th, Olga is born, the third child and second daughther of Constant and Matie.

In February Appel, Constant and Corneille hold their first group exhibition at gallery Santee Landweer.

July 16th, ‘The Experimental Group’ is officially founded by Appel, Constant, and Corneille. Soon after the foundation Jan Nieuwenhuijs, Anton Rooskens, and Theo Wolvecamp join the group. Eugène Brands, Gerrit Kouwenaar, Jan Elburg and Lucebert join a bit later.

Constant lectures at the conference of ‘Centre de documentation sur l'art d'avantgarde’ in Paris.

November 8th, the Cobra group is founded in Paris. Cobra is a partnership between the ‘Dutch Experimental Group’, the Danish ‘Høst group’ and the Belgian ‘Groupe Surréaliste Révolutionaire’. The name CoBrA is a derivative of the three cities, the groups originate from: Copenhague, Brussels and Amsterdam.

1949
In May Matie leaves Constant for Asger Jorn during their stay in Bornholm. She takes the two girls, Martha and Olga, and leaves their only son, Victor, with Constant.

November 3rd, the exposition ‘Internationale tentoonstelling van experimentele kunst’ (International exposition of experimental art) opens in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

The members of the CoBrA group and many other experimental artists exhibit their work at this exhibition. After a poetry-reading on opening night that causes quite some commotion Lucebert, Gerrit Kouwenaar, Anton Rooskens, Jan Nieuwenhuijs, Eugène Brands and Bert Schierbeek leave ‘The Experimental Group Holland’.

Constant, Karel Appel, Corneille, Theo Wolecamp and Aldo van Eyck continue.

1950
Constant stops being a member of Kunstenaars Centrum Bergen.

September 28th, his marriage to Matie van Domselaer is dissolved by divorce.

September/October, Constant, his son Victor, Corneille and Karel Appel leave for Paris. In Paris they soon go their separate ways, which is the end of ‘The Experimental Group Holland’.

1951
October 19th, Constant marries Nellie Riemens, on the same day their daughter Eva Constant is born.

The family of five, Constant, Nellie, Constant’s son Victor, Nellie’s son Michiel (called Mickey) and their daughter Eva, moves to Paris in November. They move into an appartment at Avenue de L’Opéra, which they rent from a friend, the American painter John Ernest.

1952
For several months Constant resides in Chevreuse, a suburb of Paris.

November 24th, he leaves for England on a scholarship of the British Art Council. In England he resides in London and Cornwall.

1954
‘Néovision’ is founded by Constant, Sephen Gilbert (visual artists and Cobra member) and the Hungarian sculpture Nicolas Schöffer.

1955
‘League New Images’ (Liga Nieuw Beelden) is founded in Amsterdam by a group of approximately fifty visual artists.

1956
‘Néovision dissolves.

September 2nd, Constant leaves for Alba, Piëmonte, Italy. He is invited by Asger Jorn to attend the convention initiated by the “Mouvement pour un Bauhaus Imaginiste” (MIBI), which is held from September 2nd till 9th.

In Alba Constant gives the lecture “Demain la poésie logera la vie” for the ‘Primo congresso mondiale degli artisti liberi’.

He and his family stay in Alba for a few months.

1958
Constant joins the revolutionay and avant garde art movement ‘International Situationists’, founded in 1957 in Cosio d’Arroscia.

1959
Constant gives the lecture “Development of the post-war avant garde” at the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam.

Constant gives the opening speech for the third conference of the Situationists International in Munich.

1960
Constant gives a lecture at the opening of the exhibition ‘Constant. Konstruktionen und Modelle’ at Galerie van de Loo in Essen.

Constant gives the lecture “Was ist Städtebau” for the Institut für Städtebau und Landesplanung von Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule, Aachen.

Constant leaves the International Situationists movement.

October 27th, his marriage to Nellie Riemens is dissolved by divorce.

Constant gives a lecture “Unitary Urbanism” in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Published in English in M. Wigley’s, Constant’s New Babylon. The Hyper-Architecture of Desire, Rotterdam 1998, pp. 131-135.

Aldo van Eyk and Constant receive the Sikkens-award for their manifesto Voor een spatiaal colorisme and the demonstration of the manifest at the exhibition Een ruimte in kleur  at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1952.

1961
Constant gives a lecture for the Delft University of Technology, published in Delftsche School. Onafhankelijk Blad van de bouwkundige studenten aan de T.H.-Delft nr. 3, March 1961, K3, pp. 1-13.

Constant gives a lecture “New Babylon, the idea of a futuristic city” (“New Babylon, die Idee einer zukünftige Stadt”) in the Auditorium Maximum der Verwaltungs- und Wirtschaftsakademie, Bochum.

On October 16th he marries Nel Kerkhoven.

1963
Constant lectures at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.

1964
Constant gives the lecture “The city of the free creative human” (“Die Stadt des freien kreativen Menschen”) and “Imaginary Cityscapes” (“Imaginäre Stadtlandschaften”) in Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld.

He lectures in Galerie Diogenes in Berlin and for Gesellschaft für Städtebau in Schloss Mainau in Konstanz.

1965
Constant lectures at the Academy for Architecture in Amsterdam, for the Royal Academy in The Hague, for the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, for the University of Technology in Delft, for the Social Academy in Amsterdam, at the Dominican church in Maastricht and at the Volkshochschule in Cologne November 9th called Die Stadt als Dekor für Kreation und Rekreation.

For the Kunstkring in The Hague and the Bond van Nederlandse Architecten (Institute of Dutch Architects) he gives a lecture “Future of the city”.

1966
Constant lectures at the opening of an exhibition at the Volkshochschule in Cologne and at the opening of the Cobra exhibition at Museum Boymans in Rotterdam.

He gives a lecture “Het lied van de arbeid”(“The song of labor”) for the Sociological Interacademic University of Groningen, published in Constant, Opstand van de Homo Ludens(Constant, rise of Homo Ludens), 1969, pp. 49-81

From June to November Constant’s Cobra and New Babylon work represents the Dutch contribution at the 33rd Biennale of Venice. He receives the Premio Cardazzo award.

At the completion of the new Schiphol airport Constant gives a lecture “On travelling” (“Over het reizen”) for the members of the Bond van Nederlandse Architecten (BNA). Published in Constant, rise of the Homo Ludens (Constant, Op­stand van de Homo Ludens), 1969, pp. 82-93.

He teaches at summer studios of Ateliers 63 in Haarlem.

1967
Constant teaches at summer studios of Ateliers 63 in Haarlem.

He is invited by Civitas Academica Amstelodamensis and gives a lecture “On standards in culture” (“Over normen in de cultuur”) in the Brakke Grond in Amsterdam. Published in Constant, Rise of the Homo Ludens (Constant, Op­stand van de Homo Ludens), 1969, pp. 1-14.

He lectures at Studium Generale of the University of Technologyin Delft.

1968
Constant lectures at Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, UK.

He lectures at the Department of Architecture and Civic Planning, Nottingham University, UK.

Portfolio Labyrismen is published in Amsterdam, text by C. Caspari and color lithographs by Constant.1968, 3 editions h.c., numbered I-III and 73 editions, numbered 1-73.

He gives a lecture “Spatial planning or chaos” (“Ruimtelijke ordening of ruimtelijke chaos”) for VPRO radio, published in Katernen 2000 nr 1, 1969, pp. 4-6.

1969
Constant lectures at Bauhaus Archiv in Darmstadt, Germany and at the Leidse Kunsthistorische Vereniging in Prentenkabinet of the Rijksuniversiteit Leiden.

‘League New Images’ (Liga Nieuw Beelden) is dissolved.

He gives the lecture “Planning of revolution” (“Planologie of revolutie”) at Studium Generale of Leiden University, published in Belatedly (Te elfder Ure) XVII, nr. 4-5, April-May 1970, pp. 165-184.

1970
Constant lectures at student association Socrates in Amsterdam.

1971
Constant gives a lecture for the 33rd meeting of the Association Internationale de Critiques d’Art (AICA). Shortened and revised in Dutch translation: “The face of the earth” (“Het aangezicht der aarde”). Published in Constant. New Babylon (exhibition catalog Gemeentemuseum The Hague 6.15-9.1.1974).

A few propositions like Face of the earth (Aangezicht der aarde), Urban Development and Art (Stedelijke ruimte en Kunst) are later published in English titled “A few Propositions concerning the Concepts” ‘Face of the Earth’, ‘Urban Development and Art’ in M. Wigley, Constant’s New Babylon. The Hyper-Architecture of Desire, Zero, Rotterdam 1998, p. 209.

1974
Constant receives the David Roëll award for his work as a draftsman during the exhibition Constant, An illustration of freedom at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

1979
Constant moves to the Kromme Waal in Amsterdam.

His marriage to Nel Kerkhoven is dissolved by divorce.

1980
Constant lectures at the University of Technology in Delft, published in Constant, New Babylon after ten years. (Constant, New Babylon na tien jaren). A reading by Constant May 3rd 1980, University of Technology in Delft, department of Architecture [z.p.z.d, 1980].

1982
Constant gives a speech at the opening of the Cobra exhibition at the Hamburger Kunstverein.

1983
Constant gives a lecture “Cobra today” (“Cobra vandaag”) for colloquium “Cobra Yesterday/Today” (“Cobra Gisteren/Vandaag”) in Maison Descartes, Amsterdam, published in Beeld. Tijdschrift voor kunst, kunsttheorie en kunstgeschiedenis I, nr. 1 (z.d.), pp. 10-11.

1985
Constant receives the Singer award for his entire oeuvre.

He receives the Jeanne Oosting award for his figurative painting.

1991
Constant receives the Resistance award from Stichting Kunstenaarsverzet 1942-1945. He gives a speech at the award ceremony “Resistance even today” (“Verzet ook nu”), published in Teksten uitgesproken bij de uitreiking van de Verzetsprijs 1991 op zaterdag 4 mei 1991 in De Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam, Nijmegen 1991, pp. 21-23.

1992
Constant gives a lecture “Art et Liberté, for Campus Point Art in Château de Montvillargenne in Paris, published in Point d’Art, le journal semestriel du Cercle d’Art no.8, fall-winter 1992, p. 19.

Publication of the book, Constant. Les Trois Espaces, by Jean-Clarence Lambert, Cercle d’Art, Paris, 1992.

1994
Publication of the book, Les Aquarelles, by Jean-Clarence Lambert, Cercle d’Art, Paris, 1994.

Constant meets Trudy van der Horst at the book presentation.

Constant receives the Oeuvreprijs (Lifetime-achievement award) by Stichting Fonds voor Beeldende Kunsten, Vormgeving en Bouwkunst (Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture).

1996
Publication of Dwaaltuin by Jean-Clarence Lambert, translation Gerrit Kouwenaar, H.J. Scheepmaker and Simon Vinkenoog. Drawings by Constant, Landgraaf 1996.

1997
Publication of the book, Constant. New Babylon, by Jean-Clarence Lambert, Cercle d’Art, Paris, 1997.

Constant marries Trudy van der Horst June 20th 1997.

2000
Publication of the book, Constant. L’atelier d’Amsterdam, by Jean-Clarence Lambert, Cercle d’Art, Paris, 2000.

2004
Publication of the book, Constant. Graveur, by Philippe Dagen and Trudy van der Horst, Cercle d’Art, Paris, 2004.

Publication of the book, Constant. Grafiek, by Philippe Dagen and Trudy van der Horst, Waanders Uitgevers, Zwolle/Cercle d’Art, Paris, 2004.

2005
August 1st 2005, Constant passes away in Utrecht, at home with his wife Trudy van der Horst.

He is buried at Zorgvlied in Amstelveen on August 6th.
On his grave:

In art freedom manifests itself in its highest form.
The creative imagination.
Art creates an image of the world that didn't exist before.
No. More than that.
An image that was unthinkable before.

Constant, 1991
Quote from Constant's acceptance speech Verzet ook nu after receiving the Verzetsprijs in 1991, published in Verzetsprijzen 1991

Constant, 1920

Constant, 1920
According to Constant the photographer had given him a teddy bear and a dinky toy to pose with. Constant had thrown both toys in the corner and pointed at a book. After the photographer had given it to him, he posed quietly for the photo.
Photo: unknown

Constant, 1947

Constant, 1947  
Photo: unknown

Constant with Terre Brulée, 1951

Constant with Terre Brulée, 1951  
Photo: unknown

Constant & Aldo van Eyck receive Sikkensprijs, 1961

Constant and Aldo van Eyck receive the Sikkensaward, 1960  
f.l.t.r. Professor Van den Broek of the Technische Universiteit, Delft, Constant and Aldo van Eyck, unknown.
Photo: unknown

Constant playing violin with Julian Coco on guitar and Pieter van de Staak on bass, 1961

Constant playing violin with Julian Coco on guitar and Pieter van de Staak on bass, 1961
Photo: unknown

Constant and Joco, 1961

Constant and Joco, 1961
Photo: Bram Wisman

Constant playing guitar, 1961

Playing the guitar, 1961  
Photo: unknown

Constant and Simon Vinkenoog, 1962

Constant and Simon Vinkenoog for the tv program Met Simon Vinkenoog naar het New Babylon van Constant (Accompanying Simon Vinkenoog to Constant's New Babylon), 1962
Photo: unknown

Constant at the Vernissage Krefeld, 1964

At the Vernissage Krefeld, 1964
Photo: unknown

Familie foto, 1964

Constant and his family, 1964 (f.l.t.r. Victor, Constant, Olga, Eva, Martha, and Nel Kerkhoven)
Photo: unknown

Constant with Boumibol, 1964

Constant with Boumibol, 1964
Photo: unknown

Biennale Venice, 1966

Biennale Venice, 1966
Photo: unknown

Constant playing cymbalon, 1969

Constant playing cymbalon at a party at Wittenburg, 1969
Photo: unknown

Milaan, 1979

Working on the album 'Plaisir et tristesse de l'amour' at Atelier Arte 3, Milan 1979
Photo: Arno Hammacher

Trudy, Constant and Homero Aridjis, 1995

Trudy, Constant and Homero Aridjis at Wittenburg, 1995
Photo: Betty Aridjis

Wittenburg, 1997

At Wittenburg in 1997
Photo: Dorian Kransberg

Wedding Constant & Trudy, 1997

Wedding of Constant and Trudy on June 20th, 1997. Standing in front of city hall in Utrecht with gypsy orchestra Kabani and violin player Jan Kalkman playing in the foreground
Photo: Bas Czerwinsky

Constant and Benjamin Buchlog, 1999

Constant and Benjamin Buchloh of the October Group in New York at the symposium Another City for Another Life at the Drawing Center NY, 1999
Photo: Trudy van der Horst

Constant and Alex Timmermans

Constant and Alex Timmermans in Constant's livingroom
Photo: unknown

Carl Henning Pedersen and Constant, 2000

Carl Henning Pedersen and Constant at Wittenburg in 2000
Photo: Sidsel Ramson

Constant and Tajiri, 2000

Constant with Tikus and Tajiri with his granddaughter, Tanea, at dinner at Tajiri's home in Baarlo, 2000
Photo: Trudy van der Horst

Constant with his Self portrait, 2004

Constant with his Self portrait, 1942, in preparation for an exhibition at Stadsgalerij Heerlen in 2004. Eventually the portrait wasn't shown at the exhibition.
Photo: Trudy van der Horst

Constant and Karel Appel, 2004

Constant and Karel Appel, 2004
Photo: unknown

Zorgvlied, 2013

Constant's grave at Zorgvlied, no D II 63 area 3.1, 2013
Photo: Sam Politon