Nola Hatterman

1899Amsterdam, the Netherlands | 1984Brokopondo, Surinam
Nola Hatterman — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Nola Hatterman, by Jacob Merkelbach, 1919

Dutch painter and actress.

Nola Hatterman never attended an art school but took private lessons, particularly in drawing, while studying theater from 1915 to 1918 at Toneel Academie, a drama school in Amsterdam. In 1919, still working as an actress, she debuted as a painter by participating in an exhibition staged by the art collective De Onafhankelijken [The Independents]. In the mid-1920s, she chose to stop acting and devote herself fully to the fine arts.
N. Hatterman was born in Amsterdam, an only child in a wealthy family involved in colonial activities – her father was an accountant for a Dutch East Indies import-export firm. In the 1930s, N. Hatterman was introduced to the ideas of Surinamese anti-colonialist activist Anton de Kom, author of Wij slaven van Suriname [We Slaves of Surinam, 1934], and communist leader Otto Huiswoud. She also became close to several young Surinamese models and art students who came to work and study in the Netherlands.

Discrimination, colonialism, and efforts to counter them became central themes in N. Hatterman’s works. Her paintings portray Black subjects almost exclusively and show them in a dignified, non-stereotypical way. One of N. Hatterman’s most famous paintings, Op het terras [On the Terrace, 1930], now in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, depicts an elegant subject named Louis Richard “Lou” Drenthe, a model and musician. With this acquaintance, N. Hatterman would have many discussions about the situation of colonial Surinam – which became fully independent from the Netherlands only in 1975 – and the atrocities perpetrated there by the Dutch.
In 1953, the artist moved to Surinam and became an art teacher at the Stichting Cultureel Centrum Suriname (Cultural Centre of Suriname) in Paramaribo. She developed a deep artistic connection with Armand Baag (1941-2001), one of her first students. N. Hatterman later became the director of the School van Beeldende Kunst [School of Fine Arts] in Paramaribo, and remained in the country until her tragic death in a car accident in 1984. After her passing, her students founded the Nola Hatterman Institute (now the Nola Hatterman Art Academy) in Fort Zeelandia, Paramaribo.

N. Hatterman’s work and teachings have both had a great impact on the visual culture and identity of Surinam. Yet, the fact that she was a white woman living in a colonized nation should not be ignored and it is worth noting that her work and artistic vision were frequently questioned and critiqued by both Dutch colonists and some of her Surinamese students.

Carlien Lammers

A biography produced as part of the project “Related” : Netherlands – Caribbean (XIXth c. – Today)

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