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Gerard Knorr (1856 - 1919) a biography

Transcribed from a Dutch essay written by Judith Henstra

Gerard KNORR was born on the 17 September 1856 in Franeker and died on the 10 February 1919 in Schettens. He was the youngest child of Gerbrig (Gerbrich) KNORR. Gerbrig was born on the 23 April 1818 in Bolsward. She married the hairdresser Roelof Nicolas NOORDERBROEK on the 24 May 1840 in Bolsward. She was then 22 years old. She had five children, when on the 10 December 1853 Roelof died in Leeuwarden at just 39 years of age. Shortly after Gerbrig left with her children to Amsterdam where they lived for a long time*. What she did there is unknown, in 1856, probably in the Spring*, she later returned to Franeker in the company of Gerrit Mondriaan and his wife Johanna Ossen*. The three lived together in Gerbrigs large house at Voorstraat 12, Franeker.* The Knorr family were quite wealthy owning many houses, not only in Franeker but also in Leeuwarden. The Mondriaan couple had no children.
Mondriaan was a hairdresser by profession, just like Gerbrig's late husband. According to oral history Gerard is the son of Gerrit Mondriaan. Gerbrig returned home from Amsterdam pregnant*. There are some unanswered questions and it is possible that the Mondriaans were going to adopt the child after birth and that is why they accompanied Gerbrig back to Franeker.

In any case Gerrit Mondriaan was not to see the birth of his son. Gerrit died on the 2nd September 1856 just fifteen days prior to the birth of Gerard on the 17 September 1856. A doctor was present at the birth of Gerard, an uncommon practice usually reserved for the wealthy people at this time.* Born in 1816, Gerrit Mondriaan was just 40 (39 years*) years old when he died. Johanna Ossen, Gerrit's second wife, remained with Gerbrig till January the following year in Franeker before leaving for an unknown destination.

Gerard was also unlucky in life as his mother Gerbrig died when he was still young. On the 19th January 1859, when Gerard was two and half years old, his mother died in Franeker. She was just 40 years old. Gerard with his Noorderbroek half brothers and sisters was taken to an orphanage.
Rumour has it that while Gerard was in the orphanage his share of the inheritance disappeared. It is not known if his Noorderbroek family took this inheritance or whether others were involved. Gerard was adopted by the orphange 'parents'.* It is probable that whilst Gerard was in the orphanage he still had contact with his half sister Hinke Noorderbroek as Gerard in his later years named one of his own daughters Hinke.

Gerard married Grietje Hiemstra, also an orphan*, on 15 May 1880 in Wonseradeel. Grietje was born on 17 July 1857 in Arum, the daughter of Imke Hantjes Hiemstra and Antje Johannes Glazema. Grietje died on the 23 August 1902 in Wonseradeel at the age of 45 years. Gerard and Grietje have known to have lived in Schettens, Wonseradeel in 1909 and 1913. It is said that people came into the village of Schettens to ask Gerard to write letters for them as he could read and write, just like his mother Gerbrig. If as believed, Gerrit Mondriaan is the father of Gerard, than this may explain his artistic talent. Gerrit Mondriaan comes from the same Mondriaan family as the Dutch artist Piet Mondriaan (1872-1944). Piet Mondriaan was the grandson of Gerrit's brother William Frederik (1809-1878), a hairdresser and a perfumer. This is not the only connection with artists as the grandmother of Gerrit and William Frederik was the daughter of Josina Van Gogh whose brother Jan Van Gogh was the great great grandfather of the great artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890).

Gerard was a painter by profession. Not only was he a housepainter but also a painter of carriages. Further in 1900 he painted the predikantenborden (clergy roll or memorial board) for the Nederland Hervomde church of Schetten. There is also a roll board in the church of Longerhouw which originally came from Schettens. He has signed these boards 'G Knorr'. In the rear of the church of Longerhouw he has painted "This church is painted by G Knorr, Master Painter of Schettens." Gerard was also an artist. His specialty was painting on glass. He painted a spider on a window in a window in a farmhouse in Nijland (near Bolsward) and there is also artwork of his (on glass) with his descendents in America (Hantje in Florida). Hantje has at his home a wooden table that Gerard has painted a tobacco pipe that looks so life like that many visitors have attempted to pick it up. With the passage of time it may be difficult or impossible to find conclusive evidence that Gerard Knorr is the son of Gerrit Mondriaan. It is however interesting that Gerard himself was an artist and in time so was his son Emke and his granddaughter Bonnie and grandson Gerard. When Gerard's wife Grietje passed away in August 1902 her eldest daughter Antje took over the home duties including looking after her brothers and sisters, the youngest just five months. Antje lived in Franeker but returned to Schetten on the 11 September 1902 to take on her new duties. On the 20 July 1905 she went to Bolsward and in August of that year married Matthijs Feenstra. Antje's 19 year old sister Grietje then took over the home duties in Schetten. Grietje married eventually in 1917 are having looked after the children and her father for all those years.

Gerard died on the 10 February 1919 at 5 am in Schettens. He was 62 years old. Chair-bound for the last two years of his life* Gerard had long been ill before finally succumbing to the painter's disease of lead poisoning.

Transcribed from a Dutch essay written by Judith Henstra

* Updated information courtesy Bonny Walstra-Post, additions by Eric Langenberg

Owner of originalJudith Henstra
Linked toGrietje HIEMSTRA; Gerard KNORR; Gerbrig (Gerbrich) KNORR; Gerrit MONDRIAAN

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