In 1908 Piet van der Hem returned to Amsterdam after a year in Paris were a royal grant gave him the opportunity to study. In contradistinction to his Paris work, which mainly focused on the night life in bars and clubs, Piet van der Hem now concentrated on everyday life in the Amsterdam streets, on working class quarters, with street-organs, market-stalls and wheel-barrows. The present lot from 1909 is rendered in the same subtle though free character as his Paris work, with its loose brush and powerful application of colours. Van der Hem's preference for the typical, the colourful and the anecdotical throughout his career, is clearly present in "Hartjesdag Amsterdam". As an onlooker he keeps just the right distance, before giving a striking characterisation of the events. He approaches his subjects mostly in a mildly contemplative manner.
Frits Lapidoth once stated on Van der Hem's oeuvre: "Van der Hem is not an angry man, he is cheerful, with that wonderful disdain of a healthy young Frisian for the scrubby girls in the public-houses being chased by old rakes, the artist Van der Hem looked at these folks and found them delightful of foolishness. He was especially inspired by the very comical in the human caricatures; not indignation, but mockery. Van der Hem did not disclose the background and reasons of the amusement, perhaps he did not notice it, or at least did not feel it, which is different. With a friendly sort of curiosity did he study the pleasures of these people."(cf.lit: De Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, 19 October 1913)
See colour illustration