In the nineties, Van Herwaarden spent much time drawing in the anatomical and natural history collection of the Rijks University of Leiden.  The preparations that are collected there serve, above all, a scientific objective, since they are made and assembled for the study of human anatomy and, through evaluation, for the description and establishment of manifestations of disease and abnormality.

It is not actually the anatomy itself nor its pathology that interests Van Herwaarden but rather ‘anatomy’s power of expression’ since ‘the body is the space in which thought and feeling reside. The material from which the body is made has meaning and I can attempt through painting to come closer to its secret’.

With the drawings that she made in the Leiden collections she never set out to preach compassion for those who have given up their bodies to science, but for her present work they still form an important source.

Her approach to the body is earthy and sensuous, loaded with eroticism and spirituality, and in the most recent series of small watercolours, exceptionally loaded, transparent and full of movement, as if looking with x-ray glasses – a classical dream of children -  at a perpetuum mobile of self-interweaving bodies.

In each one is embedded, there, in the clew of body parts, are to be found once again the forms and gestures that give expression to the emotions deriving from our human dignity and solidarity: consolation, tenderness, love, excitement, surrender, ecstasy – the capacity to physically rise together as defence against grief, suffering and death….”


Ludo van Halem 2005, conservator Stedelijk Museum Schiedam