Edited and prepared for the Internet by Ronald Davis
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with further selections from
Stanley Roseman - An Artist's Journal
Ennie and Arie Meesters at their home in Haarlem, the Netherlands, 1979.
Remembering a kindhearted Dutch couple
Arie and Ennie Meesters

     Roseman had begun his critically acclaimed oeuvre on the monastic life in April 1978 in a Benedictine monastery on the coast of Kent. The artist was accompanied by his colleague, who assisted in researching the subject of monasticism and planning an itinerary. Davis wrote letters to monasteries in Europe to introduce Roseman's work and relate the artist's interest in monastic life as a subject for his paintings and drawings and to make a request for a sojourn.
     In Holland that summer Roseman and Davis chanced upon meeting Arie Meesters, a recently retired biology professor and vice-principal at the Lyceum Coornhert in Haarlem. Dr. Meesters thoughtfully invited them for dinner and to meet Mrs. Meesters. Arie and his lovely wife Ennie were enthusiastic in learning about the artist's recently begun work on the monastic life but expressed their concern that he and his colleague were traveling by public transport with luggage, art materials, research books, and completed artwork. The Meesters were about to trade in their Peugeot for a newer model. By way of encouragement to their new friends, the kindhearted Dutch couple offered their present car to Roseman and Davis to facilitate their travels to the monasteries and help bring to realization Roseman's oeuvre on the monastic life, a life centered on contemplation and prayer in observing the Biblical call to prayer in the Book of Psalms.[1]
In the summer of 1978, Stanley Roseman and Ronald Davis were in Holland, where they met a Dutch couple Arie and Ennie Meesters - a fortuitous occurrence of great significance in the early months of the artist's work on the monastic life.
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Ennie and Arie Meesters at their home in Haarlem, the Netherlands, 1979. Photo © Ronald Davis
     The Meesters were of the Protestant faith, Davis is of the Roman Catholic faith, and Roseman, of the Jewish faith. The friendship between the Dutch couple and the American partners fostered ecumenicism with which the artist and his colleague had begun their work in the monasteries. Roseman's oeuvre came to include communities of monks and nuns of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran faiths.
1. The Prophet in the Book of Psalms states: 'I rise to praise you at midnight, O Lord,' and 'Seven times a day I praise you.'
    "On the rural, polder landscape of Schermer, along the banks of canals, stood marvelous, thatched-roofed windmills, their large, wooden blades turning slowly in the summer breeze. Ronald and I learned that in the seventeenth century some fifty-two windmills drained the low-lying regions to bring water up to the canal level. Three centuries passed until electric pumping engines took over the function of the windmills. Subsequently, many mills were taken down. Twelve windmills are safeguarded today as a national heritage of the Schermer polder.
Stanley Roseman "Windmill at Schermerhorn," 1978,
2. Windmill at Schermerhorn, 1978
Oil on panel, 25 x 20 cm.
Collection Family Meesters
Dinner with Arie and Ennie Meesters
     Davis telephoned the Meesters the following day and spoke with Arie, who repeated his invitation to join him and his wife for dinner. Arie Meesters considerately mentioned that his wife Ennie had Parkinson's, but that the medication she was taking was enabling her to continue an active life. Davis said to please assure Mrs. Meesters that he and his friend Stanley were very much looking forward to the evening and dinner together with them. Leaving for Haarlem, Roseman and Davis brought some information about the artist's work as well as the map to return to the Meesters. "In appreciation of their kind invitation,'' Roseman writes, "Ronald and I purchased at the Amsterdam train station a large bouquet of flowers for Mrs. Meesters.''
    "The train ride from Amsterdam to Haarlem was about twenty minutes. Arie had bicycled to the station to meet us, and, wheeling his bike by his side, the three of us walked to his home situated in a residential neighborhood of tree-lined streets and attached houses not far from the center of the city. His wife Ennie, a gracious lady, welcomed us warmly. She, as did Arie, spoke English fluently. Ennie said she was very much looking forward to meeting Ronald and me and thanked us heartily for the 'very beautiful bouquet.'
    "In their comfortable living room, the Meesters seated us at a coffee table arranged with a generous serving of hors d'oeuvres of cold cuts and Dutch cheeses. Arie offered a choice of an aperitif of Jagen, an herbal liquor that Ennie preferred; or geneva, the Dutch liquor that Arie drank. He also offered us a whisky or port. Ronald said he would try the Jagen. My choice was geneva. Arie explained that geneva, a distillation of barley malt and the juniper berry, had its origin in seventeenth-century Holland as a medicine and was brought to England, where the name of the beverage was shortened to 'gin.'
    "During our pleasant conversation we discovered that we shared many interests, such as travel. Arie and Ennie spoke of their recent trips to Greece and to Crete and showed us a number of wonderful books they had collected on their travels. Ronald and I mentioned our trip to Lappland, where I had painted portraits of the nomadic Saami people. Ronald spoke about the exhibition presenting my paintings from Lappland at Yale University's Peabody Museum in 1977 and showed Arie and Ennie the museum's biannual journal Discovery that had published an enthusiastic reportage on the exhibition."
     In his journal Roseman recounts the beginning of his and Davis' friendship with the Meesters and the Dutch couple's gift of their Peugeot. This page presents a selection of Roseman's artwork and further excerpts from the journal where the artist speaks about making a gift from his oeuvre on the monastic life to the Teyler Museum, in Haarlem. The museum houses a renowned collection of master drawings. In a cordial letter to Davis, the Director Eric Ebbinge writes: "Naturally we would be delighted to accept Mr. Roseman's extremely kind offer and select two drawings for Teylers Museum as a donation in honour of Dr. and Mrs. Meesters of this city. The quality of the drawings of which you sent us slides is such that they would form a most welcome addition to the arts collections of the museum.''
     Roseman writes with heartfelt gratitude of those deeply meaningful to him from his youth and throughout his career and who have contributed to making his life as an artist possible, as did Arie and Ennie Meesters.
Meeting Arie and Ennie Meesters
     Roseman and Davis had traveled to Amsterdam in July 1978 from the Trappist Abbey of Mount St. Bernard, in Leicestershire, to replenish some art materials the artist had brought with him from New York but that were unavailable at the time in England. Roseman recounts: "Although Ronald and I were enjoying our visit to Amsterdam, we also wanted to make a day trip into the countryside, with an interest in windmills as a subject for my work.
    "Near the guest house where we were staying on the Prinsengracht was a café that we went to for uitsmijters - those delicious, Dutch meals of sunny-side up eggs and slices of ham and cheese on bread. I asked the pleasant cook who served us at the counter if he knew of a region where Ronald and I could see windmills. He mentioned the region of Schermer, about 40 kilometers north of Amsterdam, and said that we could easily reach the area by bus. . . .''
    "Walking down a quiet country road by a canal, Ronald and I chanced upon meeting Dr. Arie Meesters. The gray-haired gentleman was walking with his bicycle and kindly stopped to help us with directions. He told us he was waiting for his son Willem, who had bicycled to a nearby village to buy supplies, and that they would be continuing their afternoon bicycle trip when he returned.
    "I told Arie that for the American Bicentennial Ronald produced an exhibition of my drawings which I had done at dress rehearsals and performances by opera, theatre, and dance companies and of my paintings and drawings of circus clowns from my sojourns with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The exhibition, as Ronald explained, toured the United States through 1976 and concluded at the Library and Museum for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, winter spring 1977.
    "Arie rightly assumed that Ronald and I were Americans. He said that he and his wife Ennie liked the United States very much and had enjoyed a wonderful trip there some ten years before. I mentioned that Ronald and I lived in New York City. I said that I am an artist and Ronald had been stage manager and assistant director with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the American Shakespeare Festival.
    "The pleasant meeting and conversation Ronald and I had with Arie Meesters that afternoon might have been no more than that but for his thoughtful offer of a map he had in the travel bag on his bicycle. Ron and I had mentioned our interest in windmills, and that having been told of the Schermer polder, we had come by bus from Amsterdam that day. Arie took out his map of the vicinity to show us where we were. The detailed map noted the location of the windmills and indicated canals, roads, villages, and hamlets. 'Please take the map,' said Arie. 'I am familiar with the region, and you are here for the first time.'
    "Thanking Arie very much for his kindness, Ronald and I said we would like to return the map as he might have need for it another time and that we would mail the map back to him. Arie responded by inviting us to return the map in person, if we would like, and to have dinner with him and his wife Ennie at their home in the city of Haarlem, where, as he told us, he had taught biology in the Haarlem school system. Ronald and I gratefully accepted Arie's kind invitation. He gave us his address and telephone number and told us to call him.''
   Roseman and Davis returned to the Schermer polder where they first met Arie Meesters. Standing at his easel along a canal, Roseman painted the dramatic Windmill at Schermerhorn. The intimate scale of the painting is in keeping with a Dutch tradition of small format paintings. Nevertheless, Roseman's composition gives monumentality to the windmill. The imposing structure of the mill, crowned by a thatched roof in contrast to the latticework of the large, wooden blades, is silhouetted against sweeping brushstrokes depicting white clouds moving in from the sea.
   The painting was a gift from the artist and his colleague to Arie and Ennie Meesters in deep appreciation for their kindness in offering their car to facilitate Roseman and Davis' travels to the monasteries and help bring to realization Roseman's oeuvre on the monastic life.
     Roseman, equipped with drawing book and drawing materials, made the excursion with Davis to Schermer. They debarked from the bus with happy anticipation of a pleasant outing and walked the country roads, unaware of their destiny that summer afternoon.
    " 'The restaurant is in Overveen, the next village, not very far away. Shall we take a walk?' Arie asked without putting the question too strongly as the Dutch love to take walks.
The Meesters ask Roseman and Davis about their sojourn in a Trappist monastery
Painting by Stanley Roseman, "Father Ian, Portrait of a Trappist Monk in Meditation," 1978, Mount St. Bernard Abbey, England, oil on canvas, Musée Ingres, Montauban. Copyright © Stanley Roseman.
3. Father Ian,
Portrait of a Trappist Monk in Meditation
, 1978
Mount St. Bernard Abbey, England
Oil on canvas, 50 x 70 cm
Musée Ingres, Montauban
    "Arie and Ennie wondered if the monks had asked to see the paintings and drawings. I said that Abbot Cyril told me that the monks were very interested in my work, and the Abbot asked if I would give a talk to the Community. He reserved an evening after supper until Compline. A screen for viewing slides was set up in the scriptorium. Ronald and I had with us slides of a selection of my work on opera, theatre, dance, and the circus; my portraits of the nomadic Saami people; as well landscapes, still lifes, and portraits from New York. I was honored to be speaking to a gathering of Trappist monks and sincerely appreciative for their interest and enthusiasm for my work."
     The Meesters were complimentary about the warm reception that Roseman and Davis had received and their acceptance in the closed world of a Trappist monastery. The conversation led Roseman to mention Davis' birthday at the Abbey:
    "Arie and Ennie thought it wonderfully international that an American cook had prepared French toast for a community of English monks. More so, I noted in my journal, as Ronald and I were relating the story to our new Dutch friends over dinner in a Chinese restaurant.''
     Roseman and Davis spoke about having recently begun a work on the monastic life. As Roseman was later to write in a text to accompany his paintings and drawings: "When I began researching and planning my work on the monastic life, my thoughts were towards Europe for monastic life is interwoven with the history and culture of Europe.'' Roseman mentioned to the Meesters that neither he nor Davis had previously sojourned in a monastery; therefore, they thought to experience monastic life for the first time in their native language. They explained that in New York, Davis had written letters to monasteries in England and Ireland to introduce Roseman's work and relate their interest in monastic life as a subject for Roseman's paintings and drawings.
     With letters of invitation Roseman and Davis embarked for England in April and were warmly welcomed at their first monastery, the Benedictine Abbey of St. Augustine's on the coast of Kent. They showed the Meesters a copy of the letter from the Abbot, Dom Gilbert Jones, who had written enthusiastically that Roseman's prospective work on the monastic life "sounds most exciting and of course you may start off here . . .'' The artist and his colleague told Arie and Ennie Meesters of the equally warm welcome at their first Trappist monastery, Mount St. Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire, where they had been since May and from where they had left to come to Amsterdam to purchase art materials. They showed the Meesters slides of several of the artist's drawings and portrait paintings of the monks. The two friends mentioned their plans to go to Ireland and their hopes to extend their work to monasteries on the Continent.
    "The four of us enjoyed a pleasant walk under an evening sky still light and blue and with a summer sea breeze drifting in from the coast. Arie and Ennie were obviously well-liked customers at the Chinese restaurant for the maitre d' greeted us most cordially and brought us to a table in a cosy corner conducive to convivial conversation."
     The Meesters were interested to learn about Roseman and Davis' sojourn in a Trappist monastery and how the artist was going about his work. Roseman spoke about drawing the monks in choir and being brought inside the cloister to further pursue his painting and drawing. He mentioned the monastic precept of ora et labora, prayer and work, and that the monks of Mount St. Bernard Abbey run a dairy farm, their main source of income.
    "Many of the monks are engaged in manual work, as Father Ian, the carpenter. He thoughtfully made available the carpentry shop and provided me with tools and wood to build the stretchers for my canvases. I painted a portrait of Ian in meditation after he had finished his day's work in the shop. He sat for me until the monastery bell summoned the monks to choir for Vespers.
    "Brother Anselm, the cook, baked a cake for Ronald's thirty-third birthday on May 25th, and the monks signed and inscribed a birthday card to 'Brother Ron.' In appreciation Ronald offered to prepare a supper of French toast. Ron's mother was of French ancestry and prepared many French dishes for her family, including French toast. Abbot Cyril was delighted with Ron's offer and said supper that evening would be a new culinary experience. Ronald took on the responsibility as monastery cook: Anselm and Ian assisted him in the kitchen. The meal that evening was a great success, as I can attest to for I was invited into the refectory to take supper with the monks.
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   Roseman has expressed serenity on the face of the Trappist monk, his right hand resting on his cheek and temple as he meditates at the end of the afternoon.
   Father Ian, Portrait of a Trappist Monk in Meditation is conserved in the Musée Ingres, Montauban, whose renowned collection originated with an important bequest by Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres (1780-1867) to his hometown. The museum's collection has since been augmented with works of modern art.
"Father Ian is for me an absolutely
captivating work of art."

- Pierre Barousse, Curator
  Musée Ingres, Montauban
   Roseman painted the superb portrait of Ian in the carpentry shop after the monk had finished his day's work, (fig. 3). The striking mise-en-page with descriptive charcoal lines setting the composition onto the canvas and calligraphic brushstrokes rendering form and space are complemented by chiaroscuro modeling of the monk's strong facial features with dark hair and beard.
   The monk's head and shoulders are silhouetted against a summary background of warm earth tones. Highlights on the tunic and collar add brilliant accents to the portrait.
   In letter to Ronald Davis, who introduced his colleague's work to the Musée Ingres, the distinguished Curator of the Museum writes:
    "Arie and Ennie said they would like to hear more about our work and suggested we continue our conversation over dinner. Arie thoughtfully said he and Ennie wanted to take us to a Chinese restaurant. Ron and I were delighted, for as we said, 'We like Chinese food very much.'
    "Arie and Ennie expressed great interest in our work, and Ronald and I were grateful for their enthusiasm and encouragement. Ronald mentioned that I had earned degrees from two leading institutions in New York City: my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Copper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and my Master of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute. Although both institutions were current with the dominant art movements that negated the presence of the human figure and Nature, I had gone my own way as an artist. The Meesters complimented me on my interests and the different subjects that I had expressed in my paintings and drawings.
An Audience with Pope John Paul II
An Invitation to Draw at the Metropolitan Opera
On Portraiture
Remembering a kindhearted Dutch couple Arie and Ennie Meesters