Het satijnen hart
An ode to art
Remco Campert’s apparent mildness and light ironic touch towards affairs of the heart have been altering gradually with the onset of old age and its infirmities, and the inevitable approach of death. The time comes for a reluctant final reckoning. In Het satijnen hart (The Satin Heart), this is the prospect facing the well-known painter Hendrik van Otterloo, who bears some resemblance to Karel Appel.
Van Otterloo has lived for art and enjoyed the fruits of fame, but he has never started a family or entered into any serious relationship with a woman. The one attempt he made, involving the hairdresser’s daughter Cissy, ended in drama, and he painted his last major work: a self-portrait, on the night she left him.
It is only years later, when Hendrik sees Cissy’s obituary in the newspaper, that his conscience starts to bother him. In conversations with his only friend, the equally renowned painter Jongerius Jr., he invariably calls Cissy a bitch, and yet she clearly left deep wounds in his soul. The only other person with whom Hendrik has a more or less normal relationship is his half-sister Babette, who regularly comes by to care for him. For all their grumbling and grousing, there is a strong bond between the two, dating back to an experience thirty years before.
Campert’s style, which has become increasingly spare and unadorned, was made for the character of Van Otterloo, a man of few words. For a long time Van Otterloo has questioned the role that art has played in his life. Yet when his frustrations threaten to get the upper hand, his longing to return to art is all that keeps him going, and it even gives him new energy. This makes The Satin Heart intriguingly contrary, as settling scores with the artist becomes an ode to art.