Newtonstraat, Den Haag
52.0764137, 4.2857795 View on map
For centuries, craftsmen fused sculpture and architecture. This can be seen, for example, in the richly decorated old cathedrals and the architectural sculpture on buildings of the Amsterdam School (1916-1926). Following this time-honoured tradition, in the 1950s and 1960s after the Second World War, a lot of so-called 'nail-biting' art emerged. Wall paintings, mosaics, stained glass and ceramic reliefs associated with the building were often created at that time through the percentage regulation. In 1951, the national government decided to spend 1-2% of the construction costs of each government building on art. The figurative representations of this 'nail-proof' art usually depicted the function of the building in which they were located.
Although created more than twenty years later, the R that visual artist Johan Traxel has made for the former library on Newtonstraat is reminiscent of that tradition. Traxel was commissioned to make this relief in the early 1980s by the Visual Arts Commission. When the library was newly built, money had also been made available for art through the municipal percentage scheme.
Traxel devised five square tiles in a row. On each of the tiles, he placed a figure reading. The dynamic is in the figure's posture. It varies from sitting upright to lying halfway down. Even though the library moved out and a boxing school found a new home, Traxel's tiles have remained.
Traxel moved from Suriname to the Netherlands in 1957. Here he obtained his MO drawing diploma at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. He then continued his studies at the Free Academy in the same city. He earned his living by teaching drawing at schools in The Hague. He also exhibited his paintings and ceramics. In addition, he received a commission from the municipalities of Delft and The Hague. The style of the figures in his library reliefs is recognisable from his free work: fresh colours, simplified forms and clear contours.