Theodorus van Hoytema (Den Haag 1863-1917) achieved fame during his lifetime as a book-illustrator, painter and draughtsman. He is considered to be the most important representative of lithographic work in the Netherlands and his prints are well represented in two Dutch public collections. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam received the complete lithographic oeuvre from Van Hoytema’s friends on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday on 18 December 1913. The Gemeentemuseum in The Hague purchased a large collection after Van Hoytema’s death in 1917 which has increased through various legacies and purchases over the years.
Theo van Hoytema was born in 1863 to a The Hague family with eight children. After his parents died in the early 1870s he moved to ‘Klein Stadwijk’, a country-house in Voorschoten, with five brothers and a sister. His eldest sister Beb was in charge of the housekeeping and gave her brother his first drawing lessons. He attended the Stedelijk Gymnasium in Leiden for only four years, after which he was employed by his two eldest brothers in their banking-house in Delft.
When Van Hoytema came of age in 1886 he resigned in order to devote his time to drawing. Memories of these years are recounted in his sketchbooks. From 1888-1889 he was employed as a draughtsman in the Zoological Museum in Leiden. During this time he explored the possibilities of lithographs. He attended courses at the Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague from 1890-1892. In 1892 Van Hoytema married Tine Hogervorst against the will of his family and friends. In the same year he also joined the The Hague Kunstkring, founded to unite artists of fine and applied arts, architecture, music and literature and was subsequently invited to paint two wall panels, De Dag and De Nacht for its club house. A large commission in 1894 of wall panels for the Groote Societeit in Gorinchem was overpainted in 1911.
In 1896 he made fifty wall paintings representing the four seasons for the saloon-steamer Merwede I. Unfortunately most were lost after the Merwede I sank in 1914. In the early 1890s he published several picture-books for children, such as Hoe de vogels aan een koning kwamen, Het leelijke jonge eendje and Uilengeluk, inspired by the English Arts & Crafts designer Walter Crane. The last two books were translated and published in England as The Ugly Duckling and The Happy Owls. Later two more books were published: Twee Hanen (1898) and Vogelvreugd (1904). Van Hoytema used floral and animal motives in an innovative way, particularly after 1896 when he was clearly inspired by French Art Nouveau and Japanese graphic art. He also excelled in his applied arts designs. Vases and tiles after his designs were produced by the Porceleyne Fles in Delft. Van Hoytema’s wife Tine Hogervorst embroidered draughtscreens and cushions after his designs. Also he designed panelwork for furniture manufactured by Van Wijngaarden & Co. in Weesp.
In 1901 he published the first of his calendars. In the same year he divorced Tine Hogervorst. During this time his friend Richard Roland Holst supported him financially. Van Hoytema was awarded several medals at international exhibitions. His physical condition worsened during the last fifteen years of his life due to syphilis. He spent much of his time at Oosterend on Texel, the first of the Frysian islands. Theo van Hoytema died at the age of 53 on 28 August 1917 and was buried at Oud Eik en Duinen in The Hague. His estate was sold at auctionhouse Frederik Muller & Cie in Amsterdam.