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Born 1934 in the Netherlands

Died in 2013

J.J. Seinen (1934-2013)

J. J. Seinen was born in the Netherlands in 1934. During the Nazi Occupation, his parents were suspected of collaborating with the Germans and were imprisoned. José and his five brothers were placed in the custody of their grandparents, who lived in Amsterdam. There he began drawing tirelessly: exercise books designed like pop-up books filled with robots and small figures of a private theatre that he moved around in sets drawn to their scale. 

As a young adult he was employed at the bank where his father and grandfather had worked, married and had a daughter. His wife and child left him in the late 1960s. 

He then opened a travel agency where he met his second wife, who came from Colombia. They agreed to live alternately in Amsterdam and Bogotá, moving every seven years, but he spent the rest of his life in Colombia, shutting himself up for days on end in a small, spartan room to escape into his own universe. Seinen, extremely erudite, had extensive knowledge of ancient history and owned a library of thousands of rare books. A penny-pinching man, he wore the same badly made striped three-piece suit whatever the season, and smoked one cheap cigarillo after another.
When he died in 2013, his wife discovered 22 boxes containing Seinen’s life work. Thousands of precise drawings, serial accumulations of figures and objects, often classified: Mesopotamian gods, Greek and Roman buildings, armies and more. The general characteristics of the drawings suggest these were made for the artist himself, creating imaginary and real worlds without any intentions of being publically displayed. He seemed to be a child hidden in an adult’s life, who pursued his waking dream.

Text by Gloria Marchini

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