By Marijke Holtrop
Gijsbertus Martinus Wilhelmus Franciscus van Waning was born in The Hague on 4 September 1887. He started drawing and modelling clay as a child. When he reached the age of 13 he learnt painting techniques from his father. After completing his study at the Delft Academy he briefly worked as an engineer. He then decided to become a professional painter and sculptor, and took lessons from artists such as Charles Dankmeijer (1861-1923) and Willem de Zwart (1862-1931, a student of Willem van Stade).

In around 1900 Van Waning moved to Wiesbaden, where he sold many paintings. His studio was initially on Taunusberg. Later he was given a ballroom in the Metropole Hotel as a studio space. In exchange he provided the hotel with murals. He also exhibited in Düsseldorf, Barmen, Hamburg and Landau.
In the Metropole Hotel Van Waning met the wealthy Russian Grand Duke Orlov, who invited Van Waning to travel with him. Van Waning accepted that offer on condition that he would be Orlov's personal secretary with a minimum amount of work in that role and generous amounts of time to draw and paint. Orlov took Van Waning with him on his travels to France, Italy, Spain and North Africa, where he could fully indulge himself as a painter and sold a lot of work.

After the death of the Grand Duke Van Waning moved to the German village of Rees. In 1917 Van Waning returned to the Netherlands. However, appreciation for his work there was much less than he had enjoyed outside the Netherlands. There is evidence that he lived in Oostvoorne in 1923. During that period he produced prints and drawings of many Brielle townscapes. After a stay in England he ended up living in the Veluwe in 1926. There he painted what has become known as “Twelve large Veluwe works” in 1933.
From 1934 Van Waning lived on the island of Schiermonnikoog, where he established his studio in the former nautical college. During the Second World War the studio was bombed and a large proportion of Van Waning’s work, including the Veluwe works, was destroyed and he himself was seriously injured. In 1961 Van Waning created the statue of the ‘Schiere Monnik’ (Grey Monk) for Schiermonnikoog. It stands in Willemshof next to the town hall in the centre of the village. Van Waning died in Dokkum at the age of 85 on 7 July 1972.

The influence of the Hague School can be clearly seen in Van Waning’s paintings. Initially his paintings were characterised by heavy and sombre colours, but after a while that gave way to a lively and clear use of colour whereby the emphasis was on space, light and harmony. He was a master of painting clouds through which the sunlight filters. He painted waterscapes and landscapes, amongst other things. As well as being a painter, Van Waning also worked as a sculptor, medallist, book illustrator and graphic artist. The use of light lend a Rembrandt-esque atmosphere to his prints.

Townscapes and buildings in Brielle make up an important part of Van Waning's works. For the exhibition Martin Van Waning’s Brielle, which could be seen in Brielle Historical Museum until October 2009, these works were brought together and published in a booklet that is still available in the museum shop. The exhibition could be staged thanks to the generous assistance of Arjo Zwart, the leading collector of Martin van Waning, who loaned his entire collection of Van Wanings for the exhibition.