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Johanna Elisabeth ‘Betsy’ Repelius (Amsterdam 1848-1921)

Thérèse Schwartze at work

watercolour and bodycolour
23.4 x 15.1 cm

Simonis en Buunk, Ede.

H. Klarenbeek, 'Penseelprinsessen & Broodschilderessen. Vrouwen in de beeldende
kunst 1808-1913', Bussum, 2012, p. 108, ill.

Johanna Elisabeth Repelius was born into an Amsterdam patrician family as the youngest of eight children.[1] Betsy, as she became known, did not merry and pursued an artistic career- very much against the will of her father. Despite her father’s reluctance at first, she was allowed to follow her artistic ambition and started her training with Petrus Franciscus Greive (1811-1872) and completed it at the Rijksakademie between 1873-1876 where she was trained in drawing and watercolour by August Allebé (1838-1927). It was during this period that she befriended her contemporary Thérèse Schwartze (1851-1918) and it was in her studio that Repelius received further drawing lessons from Nicolaas van der Waay (1855-1936) in the 1880s.

Unfortunately, rather little is known about Repelius’ life, however, due her friendship with Schwartze we can gain some insight in to her life and work. In 1878 Schwartze and Repelius made a three-week journey to Paris, probably to visit the Salon and in a letter from 1900 from Repelius and Schwartze to Georgina Schwartze the artists wrote about their visit to the world exhibition.[2] Her close relationship to Schwartze, and indeed other contemporary artists, is attested by her will in which she stated to leave considerable sums to her artists friends. Sadly, the will also stated that her letters and diaries would be destroyed after her death and very few of her works are known to have survived.[3]

In the present, swiftly executed sheet, first published in 2012 (see literature), Repelius caught Schwartze at work in a field. The loose handling of the watercolour and bodyclour suggest that the sheet was executed en plein air rather than in the studio. Schwartze, in turn, is also known to have made a portrait of Repelius, but unfortunately the present whereabouts of this work are unknown.[4]

[1] P. Gorter en M. Bax, ‘Vondelstraat 29. Betsy Repelius en haar Opdrachten aan Joseph Cuypers en Piet Mondriaan’, Amstelodamum JaarboekI, no. 98, p. 114.
[2] Ibid., p. 114-115.
[3] Ibid. p. 115.
[4] Ibid., note 21.

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