Hemingway and the Dutch

Kees Luijben


The influence of France, Spain, and Italy on Ernest Hemingway has been widely acknowledged, but the influence the Netherlands has had on his work has long been overlooked.  How did Hemingway draw influence from and collaborate with the Dutch?

During his years in Paris, Hemingway, known for his interest in sports, developed a passion for cycling. He not only actively cycled on the roads of France but also attended cycling events such as the Six Day races held at the Vélodrome d'Hiver in Paris and the Vélodrome Buffalo in Neuilly-sur-Seine. In magazines like La Pédale and L'Auto, the promoter of the Tour de France, he read about Dutch cyclists Piet Moeskops and Piet van Kempen. It is highly likely that he saw and possibly met them during these Six Day events.

While on a trip to the Provence in 1924, Hemingway visited Arles and wrote to Ezra Pound about having made a pilgrimage to Van Gogh's former place of residence, noting it as one of the "shrines" he visited. He found inspiration in the work of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, much like he was inspired by the older artist Hieronymus Bosch, whose work he encountered at the Prado Museum in Madrid. Hemingway's admiration for Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights (Tuin der Lusten) is evident, as it is featured on the cover of Carl P. Eby's recently published book Reading Hemingway's The Garden of Eden.

In March 1937, Hemingway met the Dutch film director, left bank intellectual, artist, and communist Joris Ivens at the Café Deux Magots in Paris. Ivens was preparing a documentary on the Spanish Revolution and invited Hemingway to collaborate, as he knew Hemingway had an interest in the country. Hemingway agreed and traveled with Ivens and Dutch cameraman John Fernhout (Ferro) to Madrid and Fuentidueña de Tajo to shoot the film that would become The Spanish Earth. Hemingway financed a quarter of the total cost and provided the script and voiceover for the film. In July 1937, both men presented the documentary to President and Mrs. Roosevelt at the White House. The connection between Hemingway and Ivens remained, and in 1940, Hemingway asked Ivens to review his manuscript for For Whom The Bell Tolls, considering their shared experience in Spain.

Given the immense influence that Dutch artists had on Hemingway, we're left to wonder why –despite all his travels—he seems to have never made it to the Netherlands. Ernest Hemingway knew, collaborated with, and drew inspiration from various Dutch individuals, but did he ever visit their home country?


Works Cited

Baker, Carlos.  Ernest Hemingway:  A Life Story.  Scribners, 1969.

Brouwer, Erik.  "Ernest Hemingway was een renner" in De Muur 18, J. Veen (2007).

Eby, Carl P.  Reading Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden.  Kent State University Press, 2023.

Hemingway, Ernest.  “A Pursuit Race.”  Men without Women.  Scribners, 1927.

---.  The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 2 (1923-1925).  Cambridge University Press, 2020.

Meyers, Jeffrey.  Hemingway:  A Biography.  Harper & Row, 1985.


Kees Luijben is a finance professional living in the Netherlands. For over fifty years, he has been very interested in the life and work of Ernest Hemingway.

Kees Luijben 03/15/2024

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