Art Can Heal

Patients are responding to Paintings     Read English translation     View painting on display

Hubert Roestenburg expressionist painter in the news

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Rhein-Zeitung    Feb 2, 2013

Art can heal.  In the medical practice of Dr. Jörg-Peter Sartoris in Wittlich, Germany, paintings by the Dutch artist Hubert Roestenburg are having a therapeutic effect.

Paintings open a Window into the Soul

The expressive power of paintings of Hubert Roestenburg in medical practice in Wittlich point to new ways for treatment

By Ursula Augustin

Wittlich/Hontheim.  Art can influence an individual’s emotional state.  Dr. Jörg-Peter Sartoris, a general practitioner in Wittlich, Germany has been putting this fact to very impressive use for treating patients over the last half year.  Four painting by Hubert Roestenburg have been hanging in the reception area and consultation and treatment rooms of his practice for six months now.

Hubert Roestenburg, a resident of nearby Hontheim, is known to many art lovers in the Coghem-Zell district because he has frequently exhibited his expressionist works in the area, most recently in the Christoffel inn in Eidiger-Eller.  He was born into a family of Dutch landscape painters in Amsterdam in 1935 and studied philosophy in London, psychology in Amsterdam, and art in Amsterdam and Antwerp.  He has lived and worked as a painter, college teacher and author in various European countries.  His exhibitions in several major cities have brought him international acclaim.  Roestenburg is one of the best-known contemporary Dutch painters.  His life and work have been marked humanistic ideals and artistic creativity.

When Sartoris first saw the painter’s work, he was immediately fascinated by their expressiveness and explosive colors.  They got together several times and then decided to put up four of the artist’s recent works in Sartoris’s practice in Wittlich.  Its rooms are ideally suited for doubling as a small art gallery, and Roestenburg, with his background in art, psychology and philosophy had already discovered, in cooperation with several other physicians, that his expressionist images have a therapeutic impact.

On a sunny day in June they unloaded the paintings in front of the practice and temporarily leaned one of them against Roestenburg’s car.  Suddenly an intense ray of sunlight caused its colors to explode.  A roughly 15-year-old teenage boy, who at that moment happened to be leaving the practice in his wheelchair, instantly felt drawn to the painting.  He asked his mother to push him over to it, and began a conversation with the artist.  Both the artist and the patient greatly benefited from this art-inspired encounter.  Roestenburg remembers it with great pleasure.  And now people come into contact with his paintings in Sartoris practice on a daily basis. It’s always the paintings that take the initiative.  Without being overbearing, they constitute fixed reference points.  They approach people and invite them to converse.  They open a window in patients for what might be good for them.  Perhaps also a desire.  Talking about the art then often leads to greater openness and trust for addressing for their actual reason for coming to the practice, namely a medical consultation.  The expressionist paintings enhance the empathy between patient and physician.

The paintings work in response to all emotional states: joy, suffering, sadness, or even depression.  Each has different effects, but it is always the same for a given condition.  The patient’s age doesn’t matter.  A five year old can react the same way as an elderly person.  And the individuals they touch always open up as a result.  The paintings instill trust and inner calm.

Sartoris and his staff also derive strength from the paintings for their everyday work.  For dissipating stress and recharging their batteries.  But also for inspiration and creativity.  Appreciation, acknowledgement, empathy, and language are central themes in caring for patients every day.  The assistants also treat the patients accordingly and ensure an agreeable ambiance in the practice.  A harmonious atmosphere has a positive effect on their conditions and relieves their fears.

Another major feature of the practice is decoration.  Inspired by the enormous expressiveness of the paintings, the rooms are dynamically decorated to reflect the changing of the seasons.  One of the assistants creates the decoration after talking with Sartoris.  The goal is to amplify the effect of the paintings.  As a result, all of the personnel are undergoing a process of artistic maturation.  Their senses are being honed.  They now more acutely experience their work as part of a team and deal with stress and problems better.  The painting of Hubert Roestenburg can reach people’s innermost realms and touch their souls, thus helping to induce changes or even the first steps towards recovery.


Ursula Augustin

Rein-Zetung   Feb 2, 2013


One of the “Therapeutic Paintings” on display in the medical practice in Wittlich
(the German Expressionism lineage is unmistakable)

Hubert Roestenburg German Expressionist Flower paintingClick image to enlarge
Size without frame: height 140 cm, width 120 cm (55 1/8  ” by  47 1/4″)


Click images to enlarge and to learn more about each individual painting

German Expressionism-landscapes-portraits-cityscapes