By the Sea

The series Utrecht by the sea shows Utrecht as a source of culture and art. Through personal stories of artist from Utrecht, an image of Utrecht as an art city is created. The series features several famous Utrecht artist, like Dick Bruna, Joop Moesman and Gerrit Rietveld, but also younger artists like Ingmar Heytze and the Palestinian filmmaker Mahmoud al Massad, who’s film “Shatter Hassan” showed Utrecht as an secret city from a fairytale.


Fifteen short films have been finished so far. Before the celebration of the Treaty of Utrecht in 2013, three more films will be finished. One film will be about the Treaty of Utrecht; we'll see Turkish artist Semiramis Öner-Mühürdaroglu create a painting with the Treaty as main topic. This film will have its premiere on April 11 2013, combined with a screening of the whole series of Utrecht by the Sea on Sunday April 28 in the City Archive, related to the celebration of the Treaty and City2City. Local broadcast network RTV Utrecht and Nostalgienet will report on the films. 



The plan for the series emerged during an exhibition of the painter Saenredam in the City Museum. On of the paintings there was ‘Fantasized harbour view with Maria church in Utrecht’ from 1661, (assumed to be made) by Anthonie van Beerstraten. In previous centuries, Utrecht had been an important centre of trade and political power, and its art scene had profited from that. Later on, Rotterdam and Amsterdam grew and Utrecht it’s influence, also because of the closing of important waterways. The city council drafted plans for new connections with the sea, but noting was ever put into practice. After a century of stagnation and depression, van Beerstraten painted the never regained flourishing Utrecht, by the sea.


The city would never be able catch up with Amsterdam and Rotterdam economically, but for many artist, it remained an attractive habitat for living and working.

“Unlike Amsterdam art, 17th century art from Utrecht was not about reality, but about fantasy.”

-       Joanneth Spicer, introduction of the US exhibition ‘Masters of Light’.



Director's vision

As a filmmaker, I’m very aware that I’m in the same position more or less as the artist that I film. Many of my films are created abroad, but I always return to Utrecht: the city I lived in since I was seven years old. My films are mostly about the cutting edge between cultures, far away from Utrecht. But it’s here that they are created, written and produced.


Together with Utrecht artist Henk van der Haar, I feel the urge to understand this city, to see it as a connection point of cultures. With the eighteen selected artist for the film, we hope to attribute to the rich cultural image of Utrecht.


The story of the artist and his/her relation to his environment are the central focal points in all the films. We offer the viewer the opportunity to identify with the artist and relate to his or her statements. This way, the valuation of the artist’s work is connected to well known places in the city. Many of its history is lost, but more has been saved: places, images and stories.


By showing a broad range of Utrecht's artist, the variety of the city's culture is shown. It is a city that’s incredibly culturaly active. The design of the intro and editing also reflect the high level of the abilities in terms of animation at the city’s art academy: the HKU.


Jan van den Berg, January 2013