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Johan Hendrik van Zweden, art and resistance

Gemeentemuseum Arnhem
Time period: 1939-1945
Number of interviews: 2 (1 person)
Accessibility: for research purposes
Transcripts: none
Period of interviews: 10 and 12 November 1970

The collection has not yet been digitized and therefore cannot be viewed directly at Sound & Vision. Digitization can, however, be requested from Sound & Vision via:

Medium: 1 audio tape

Title: Johan Hendrik van Zweden: leven en werken

Authors: F. van Dijk, C. Hofstreenge, H.C. Scheerder, T. Wibaut-Guilonard en H.J.W. Drijvers

Publisher: Groningen: Benjamin & Partners, 1996

IBSN: 9054770163

The then director of Arnhem’s Gemeentemuseum Pierre Jansen (1926-2007) interviewed the painter-sculptor Johan Hendrik van Zweden (1896-1975) in 1970 on the eve of a retrospective exhibition of his work in Arnhem to mark his 75th birthday. Van Zweden was a pupil of Jan Altink and Jan Wiegers, who together founded De Ploeg and introduced German expressionism to the Netherlands. Van Zweden was also a member of the Groningen artists’ circle. During his Groninger years, many portraits were made of Van Zweden (nicknamed “Shanghai Bobby” because of his Asian features) by Ploeg members, showing personal friendship and sympathy. During World War II, he joined the artists’ resistance, but was soon arrested and imprisoned in Kamp Vught.


The interview includes a discussion of Van Zweden’s resistance activities during the German occupation and his stay in the Vught concentration camp, to which he was transferred in 1943 after his arrest. There, with the knowledge of the camp commander, he was able to set up his own studio. After the commander’s departure, he worked in the drawing room of the Philips workshop in Vught. In the camp, among other things, he made portraits of his fellow prisoners.


In May 1944, he was deported to Dachau concentration camp, from which he was liberated in April 1945. After the war, he was appointed by Mart Stam, as a replacement for the fallen sculptor Frits van Hall, to teach at the Institute for Arts and Crafts Education (later the Gerrit Rietveld Academy) in Amsterdam.