Johannes Carolus Bernardus (Jan) Sluijters was born in 1881 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Sluijter’s first artistic training was in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, where his father, Gijsbertus Antonius Sluijters, was a wood-engraver. In 1894, his family moved to Amsterdam, the city where Sluijters was to spend the rest of his life.
After receiving his art teacher’s certificate (1900), he went to the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten. In 1904, he won the Prix de Rome.
Upon visiting Paris in 1906, he became fascinated by modern art. Sluijters’s confrontation with the work of Neo-Impressionists, Fauvists and such painters as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Kees van Dongen resulted in sensational and dynamically modern work and made him a pioneer of modernism in the Netherlands. This point in Sluijters’ career means a shift to developing his own distinctive, expressive style. His early works, often landscapes, were more Symbolist with Art Nouveau elements, now he started exploring his inner feelings. He expressed these feelings by changing perceptible forms and an exuberant, non-realistic use of color. He assimilated the French influences into a Divisionist style, characterized by an expressive use of bright dots, lines, and blocks of color corresponding to the artist’s personal view of the motif. The application of this technique, particularly in landscape paintings such as October Sun, Laren (1910; Haarlem, Frans Halsmus.), shows how strongly he admired the later work of Vincent van Gogh. It was this form of Divisionism, of which the chief representatives were Sluijters, Piet Mondrian and Leo Gestel, that brought about a breakthrough for Amsterdam’s avant-garde painters in 1909, and generally paved the way for the development of modern art in the Netherlands.
Sluijters was one of the strongest forces behind the Modern Kunstkring (modern art society), founded in 1911. He experimented with Futurism and Cubism. In the years after 1905, his work was considered controversial because the wild colors he used were strange to the public. Moreover, depictions of naked women caused regular exclusion of his paintings from exhibitions.
Sluijters enjoyed increasing popularity during his life. Several large exhibitions honoring his work took place during his life and even nowadays, his work is represented in the collections of many renowned Dutch museums.