Hendrik Emil [Rik] Wouters (Belgian, 1882 – 1916).
Self-Portrait with Black Eye-Patch.
Oil on canvas. Signed and dated 1915 en verso.
Hendrik Emil (Rik) Wouters (Mechelen, 21 August 1882 – Amsterdam, 11 July 1916) was a Belgian sculptor, painter, draftsman and etcher. He is counted to the flow of Fauvism.
In 1915 the symptoms of his fatal disease are clear: jawbone cancer. Already in 1912 he had complained about increasingly common headaches. Nel comes to him and he is released. Together they will live in Amsterdam in an apartment on the third Kostverlorenkade nr 37, third floor. He gets a first exhibition there and shows the wry “Rik with black eye dressing”. Short consecutive surgeries do not provide a solution for his cancer on the upper jaw. He undergoes intensive X-ray and radium irradiation that offer no relief. That same year he paints his Self-Portrait with the black eye-patch.
A second exhibition was organized in Amsterdam in 1916. Nel testifies about Rik’s last winter as follows: The bleak winter of 1915-1916 hangs over Amsterdam like a shroud of sleet and snow. It was during one of those sad days that the disease resurfaced. His voice is hollow and it is painful to see him eat. He can only get fluid things in, and then only, like his daily connection, through the opening of his broken jawbone. This link in the back of his mouth stinks and liquid food makes him feel disgusted. The prospect of long sleepless nights, in desperate struggle against pain, makes him desperate. He can not lie down, walked around in circles like crazy. Not even 34 years old, Rik Wouters dies after a painful eye cancer in Amsterdam. His wife, Nel, stayed in Amsterdam until 1919 after Wouters’ death, after which she returned to Belgium. She remarried with a doctor, represented Riks artistic interests and died in 1971, 85 years old.
Five years after Nels’s return, Rik’s remains were deposited in the cemetery of Watermael-Boitsfort, close to his home. In the garden wall of their house Nel had the brick of Rick’s grave in Amsterdam bricked in as a memory.