Chris Beekman, Steam Tram Stop, 1917-1918. Oil on canvas. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
From 1916, Beekman’s work becomes progressively more abstract. His good friend, the artist Bart van der Leck, is an important influence on this development. The painter, who began his career as a stained glass artist and also painted pictures of laborers and fishermen, introduces Beekman to the abstraction of De Stijl. Following his example, Beekman begins to schematize his human figures, as shown in the painting Steam Tram Stop (Halte stoomtram,1917–1918). Van der Leck was already working exclusively with primary colors and planes and bars of color at the time. Bit by bit, Beekman also reduced reality in his paintings. Being a former ceramics painter, he was familiar with abstract decoration. This pure abstraction can first be seen in his drawings. In closed compositions, colored blocks slide together like pieces of a puzzle. Although they were no longer recognizable depictions, the warm colors and concrete titles such as Spring (Lente) and Farmers’ Service (Boerenservies) still refer to reality.
This quest for abstraction is reflected in the free use of colors and geometric shapes. Beekman closely followed all the latest artistic developments and was active within De Stijl. He actively maintained contact with the other artists, including Peter Alma and architect Robert van ‘t Hoff, and corresponded extensively with Theo van Doesburg, Vilmos Huszár and, to a lesser extent, Mondrian. Another Dutch artist who was working in an abstract style was the young Carel Willink. He would later also opt for a realistic painting style, but was not politically motivated in this choice.