Jan Cremer was born on 20 April 1940 in Enschede, just before the Second World War swept over the Netherlands. His father Jan Cremer senior had many professions and was also a travel writer, photographer and journalist. It was him that Jan Cremer inherited his urge to write; the love of drawing and reading came from his Hungarian mother.
After the difficult war years in Enschede, Jan Cremer became a ward of the state and at the age of 14 he was sent to work in a factory. There followed a short intermezzo with the marines, after which he sailed on tramp ships, mainly to Russian ports. After his matelot period he travelled through Germany, Italy and France, finally landing up in Paris in 1958. Between jobs he studied for a few months at art academies in Arnhem and The Hague, where as later in Paris he took lessons in free painting and later specialised in printmaking techniques.
From his earliest days Jan Cremer was an original, obsessive artist who lived for his work. At this first solo exhibition in De Posthoorn gallery in The Hague in 1958, the critics – still not fully recovered from the CoBrA riots – spoke of a ‘wild animal’. A year later he exhibited in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, followed by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
He subsequently stayed for three years on Ibiza, connected with the ‘Grupo Ibiza’. In the meantime Cremer worked on his first book ‘I, Jan Cremer’. Published in The Netherlands in 1964 it caused a real cultural revolution and has since sold millions all over the world. There also followed more than a hundred exhibitions of his artworks in museums and galleries not only in The Netherlands but in many other countries. Cremer wrote more books, but also kept on painting, abandoning the abstract style of peinture barbarisme in favour of paintings of tulip fields and other aspects of the Dutch landscape.
There followed many years of travelling and painting, during which he wrote travel stories for leading newspapers and magazines as well. Jan Cremer stills manages to combine his work with his wanderlust. Sometimes he is away for six months of the year, although lately he has been staying more often at his home in Amsterdam.