After retiring from working in publishing Nagel decided to return to his favorite business in his youth, painting.

A stream, a flow of images from his childhood emerged is a high tempo. Land- and Seascapes of the countryside in which he grew up. This creative explosion lead to some 450 fascinating works of which a number were exposed in Noordwijkerhout, Amsterdam and Groningen. And as for now it seems not to come to an end.


Ernst Nagel doing yellow

A quote from the artist: When I was twelve years old my uncle Stuart Landa gave me paint box. It was the most beautiful box I had ever seen with all those tubes and brushes and so on. After a whole week I dared to open one of them and started to paint my surroundings. I used the backside of wallpaper, big surfaces, and those poor little tubes were empty before I knew it and I had to save my pocket money in order to buy new ones. My “atelier” became far more important than the school I was supposed to attend.

When I was about fifteen years old my father took me to his friend the painter Willem Hussem, who lived in a kind of an old bathhouse in Den Haag. I was completely bewildered. The hall, an empty swimming pool, was filled with rows and rows of big paintings all front up against the walls. I found myself in a “painters universe” and noticed that reality also had a different face. It occurred to me that there was an other stronger way of painting reality and so this was what they called “abstract” a term I had picked up ears dropping at painter’s abracadabra. While sipping at my chocolate milk in an artist bodega afterwards I was overwhelmed by all I had seen and was determined to follow this path. From there on I made huge paintings of old pieces of hardboard, new stuff every body used to “modernize” there doors their rooms and about everything in those postwar years. The paint I used varied from wall paint, bicycle paint, everything I could talk my boyfriends mothers out of. And then I met Gerrit Benner, another painter-friends of my father, whose work was not at all abstract, but still very attractive. So how could this be? Was there no universal painters law?

Willem Hussem and Gerrit Benner


The blue Monday I spent on the academy of art in Den Haag is only remember able because I met the work of Jan Cremer! Even more dimensions were added: the omni potent catching world of form with then unknown humor. Therefore beauty could be fun and thus universal in all directions and urgent.

There were more sources. As a young man in Groningen my father got interested in a group of painters who called themselves “De Ploeg”. This group consisted of Wiegers, Altink, Dijkstra and H.N. Werkman. The latter he met during WWII. Werkman (a printer by profession) printed a series of illegal books. My father was a dedicated lover of these paintings and did all he could to bring his work to the attention in the rest of the Netherlands. My very first contact with big art was a trip in my baby carriage with beneath me my mattress and my puddle sheet, priceless printings of the “Chassidische Legenden” by Werkman to be sold in “The West” as it was called up north. In later years we would always be surrounded by some of these works, which were hanging at the walls of our home.

The fact that you could discover how he did it, ink roll, brush etc. if you watched it close enough, made a huge impression on me, so a tried it to. For years a self portrait by Werkman hung in our living room and every day I watched that nice old man, whose face merely existed out of some lines and squares.

A while ago my wife and me went to Groningen to attend the funeral of a dear nice. We rode to the cemetery over a beautiful little road on top of a dyke. The dark green land below and besides us, we on a higher level and then the upper piece, that skies the thick fat white clouds in all that clear bright deep blue.

Ernst Nagel wih Cajarc in the background

Some cows grazing at the foot of the dyke, all seemed to be standing square, like flowing down with the ground to the low horizon because we were so high on the dyke road. “We are riding in to a Benner”,
I thought. That is when I decided to try to express in my images the everlasting tension between the upper and the lower parts of landscapes. Ernst Nagel’s works can be seen on his Internet gallery Panoramics at

Conversation with the painter

Was there much interest in the site Panoramics when it started in the spring of 2005?

Yes, lots of new fans with friendly remarks and criticism. Some of it was quite to the point and some was also very close.

What do you mean with close?

Some of the fans recognized this archetypical landscape from the sea and the dunes towards the lakes of the Haarlemmermeer, De Kaag, De Brasem and De Westeinderplassen. Others came close with remarks on the technique like: How do you manage, how do you fix it?. Perhaps the idea was put into other heads by the introduction by Hans Sleutelaar in which he mentions,”…the picturesque craftsmanship is treaded under foot…”.

What does Hans Sleutelaar mean?

That is difficult. I can explain what I do but the fans expect something very spectacular while it is simply a matter of layer upon layer, letting them dry out (Some times I use a hairdryer) before adding a new layer. I use all kinds of material like paint, gouache, aquarelle, ecoline, ink, oil pastels, oil crayon, pencil, and acrylic, well anything but oil paint.

Why no oil paint?

It takes to long to dry properly.

So, are you in a hurry?

No, but I don’t like working wet in, on, or against wet. It soon gets a little kitschy, like things intervene witch each other without me wanting this or meaning them to do so. In my paint universe it is a nono.

Paint universe?

Yes. What is important and what is it about, all that paint and things on carton, what am I trying to tell. It is not only an image and a “Panoramic”. It is also an evidence of a qualified mess of paint and ink that gives me a lot of pleasure.

Also you have to be able to see which technique the painter likes most of all. A painting can never just be flat. It moves tot the sides, goes up. Look at the rims for instance. I have restudied the earliest works and a lot of things came to my attention. Things I did not see, could not have seen earlier.

Now after a few years of messing about, I see what is important and what is not. And because I think that I am not the only one who feels or experiences this, I started to look at things from a new perspective. I am looking for a confirmation of the “presumption of Nagel”.

Just look at those edges. It is about how colours and material lay next to each other, not how they lay in top of each other. The difference between Karel Appel and Jaap Nanninga for instance; the appreciation rises, according to the complexity in which the surfaces coincide and this symbiosis expresses it self in the unruliness of those edges (you know?).

Earlier I had this presumption, looking at Bart van der Leck, my neighbour had some hanging on his wall, and I used to look at the white between those surfaces for hours. To look at the little walls of paint against the colours, the fences of all that air that made it meaningful.

But not the official signification. Look you see it is really a sparrow. I did not care about that, I saw something else happening. I, as a ten-year-old boy should have knocked on his door, so the truth could be revealed. And now I see in in all good paintings. Even in Van Goch. See for your self.

Why have the Panoramics a number, not a title?

After the first “explosion”, when I had some 50 pieces, I thought of titles because of the nature of the work; land- and seascapes. I thought of place names but realized I was ending up with a list like “Noordwijkerhout 30”, “Hazerswoude 123” or something like “Ameland VIII”. It would give the series a unplanned funny connotation. Of course paintings can and may be funny but not by playing with the titles or there names. My art is not ironic it is full authentic.

Once I had 100 paintings and then suddenly 200, and then I tried naming them all using place names of other importance in my virtual landscape. Coming for 25 years on Formentera, I ended up with “Platja de Migjorn”, “Estany des Peix”, “Cap Barbaria”, “Raco de sa Pujada” etc. All very legitimate as you can see. Top and Bottom versus themselves. All the colours up and down, but always this line between them, there where everything changes.

After some years the paintings had titles, because at expositions the numbers where not clear.

Why so many. I can’t see the wood from the trees?

Good question. Some times you can see trees indeed! Often when the picture is leaning towards dune-like surroundings it is very likely we find ourselves in the vicinity of Noordwijkerhout. In fact every picture is Noordwijkerhout or rather the path trough the dunes between Noordwijk and Katwijk, but in the same time it is Formentera and the river Lot with its foresty hills and also it is always a hill in the Auvergne.

Sorry, this is not at all an answer. This goes nowhere! The Panoramics, in a way, are all the same; they represent the equal land- or seascapes more or less. But they all are so different that I want to show them all, though they seem to differ just slightly. This on and of-difference I find the most interesting part of the whole process, of the whole phenomenon Panoramics. To put only ten or so on the site would be unsatisfactory to me. Perhaps the fans could be able to concentrate better, but it would be harder for them to follow the story.

The Panoramics won’t always stay together. You will sell them I hope?

Yes, surely. But the story stays on the site where there is no visual hinder and that’s why it’s good all Panoramics stay on the site.


Any expositions?

Yes sure a few times, in springtime in Noordwijkerhout (next to the source so to speak) in the summer in Groningen and in the fall in Amsterdam. Groningen en Amsterdam were the result of a mayor purchase by Stichting Beeldende Kunst, SBK for short (Foundation of Art). They are sending a number of Panoramics in to the world.

(After this conversation there were expositions in Den Helder, Amsterdam, Gorredijk (2x) and in Auckland (New Zealand).

Twelve of the were exposed in Groningen in a magnificent surroundings, the “derAa Church”, along with the works of twenty other artists. When I walked in and saw them hanging, I thought by myself: “not bad at all”. It was strengthening both for my ego and my art. Even more was an article about the tenthousenth visitor whom was offered one of the exposed woks for choice and according to the magazine article: “without any hesitation, from all the newly exposed treasures, they immediately picked a work by Ernst Nagel”.

Ernst Nagel in the A-Kerk.
The painter explanes everything an other time.

Okay, enough already.

Well, it just happened. You’re not making a complete fool of yourself, messing around for nothing, to quote Armando. It does not mean anything but when you read a thing like that, it seems that it is not always so and not per se. Somewhere and sometimes maybe it means something after all.

Fan no one travels to Groningen.
Liesbeth Houtman – Nagel in the gallery.

... a few years later in Gorredijk. Liesbeth in Friesland.

In front of Nr. 701 – Es Pujols ’78 on the exposition in Gorredijk, Hoogenbosch Gallery, November 2013. Ernst Nagel from Groningen in Friesland.

This is an angry younger me, 18, in front of a wild painting (1962) which was exposed in the Boerhave zalen in Leiden now the Boerhave science Museum. Ernst Nagel from Groningen in Leiden.

In 1964 with my mother and my oldest sister in front of an iconic Hussem painting in Leiden.

Ready made from the beach of Formentera, Mitjorn 2013: Plastic Landscape 2

This was the first one from the same beach:
Plastic Landscape 1.
Last year: Plastic landscape Nr. 3, the city... and also from Formentera Tramway 2 to the Museum..
  In Cassis, France: Nr. 979 – Calenque de Port Pin ’63
with two friends Theo and Pieter from the academy.
On Formentera: Nr. 961 – Punta d Ún Pep ’79,
fishing with Willem, Lara and Theo
  In Amsterdam: Ernst Nagel makes
Nr. 934 - Het strand en de zee '56.
  From Gorredijk to Auckland, 5 paintings:
Nr. 491 – Ter Aar ‘83
Nr. 608 – Katwijk – Noordwijk ‘53
Nr. 761 – Es Pas ‘88
Nr. 694 – Punta des Bancs ‘74
Nr. 801 – Haarlemmermeer ‘67
Nr. 384 – Riou ’02 next to a Jan Cremer
in a fan’s living room.
  Kristien en Hans Sleutelaar in front of
Nr. 370 – Het korenveld ’05,
home in Grouttes, France.
  Nr. 1000 – Casa blanca de Maria ’15
in Casa blanca de Maria
Paintings on the top floor in Amsterdam
from right: Nagel; van den Berg; Werkman;
Lucebert; Benner; Muhlstaff and Appel.

copyright 2016 Ernst Nagel