"As a 17 year-old in the Second World War, attracted purely by the promise of adventure, he became a member of the Jeugdstorm (Dutch National Socialist Youth Movement), and participated in two Weersportkamps (Endurance Camps) in Austria. In order to escape the Arbeitseinsatz (forced labour) and the restrictiveness of Oudewater, he joined the German navy in mid-1944. In the Baltic Sea, his ship was sunk by a torpedo attack, and he barely survived. He was transferred to the trenches in Courland, where he was wounded. Upon his recovery, he was bussed to the front line at Oder, where he witnessed the bombing of Dresden first-hand. When the Russians crossed the Oder, he fled to West Germany where he was eventually captured by the Americans. He managed to escape to Marseille, where he joined the Foreign Legion. After a short period with the Foreign Legion, he deserted and gave himself up in Straatsburg. In August 1945, he was transferred to the camp in Vught, and then on to the Duindorp camp in Scheveningen. He was sentenced to three years’ internment: firstly in the re-education camp in Katwijk, and later in Nunspeet. At weekends, he would return home to Oudewater or visit the artists’ bars on the Leidseplein in Amsterdam. He returned to Oudewater in May 1948.
In 1961, Montyn met the young artist Thom Gerrard. They then moved to Morocco, living and working in Rabat for nine months. Upon returning to the Netherlands, they went their separate ways. Tragically, just after Montyn’s first solo exhibition in 1963, Thom took his own life. In mid-1963, Montyn met Elja Julien, with whom he moved to Provence in 1964. With his own two hands, he renovated a tumbledown building for the couple to live in. It had no running water or electricity, but it did have a studio, which he used to create his etchings. His use of colours became more and more pronounced, and his first series of etchings flowed onto the canvas. He was featured in numerous exhibitions. He then embarked with Elja on journeys through Spain, Morocco, the Sahara Desert and the Atlas Mountains. Together with Elja, he accompanied his first child-refugee transit from South Korea. The couple broke up towards the end of the 1960s.
It was at this period that the Khmer Rouge came to power. Once again, Montyn offered his services as a volunteer to humanitarian organisations. He illegally crossed the Mekong, citing his work as an artist as his motivation. He met Roumpha, ‘the Khmer Rouge girl’, via whom he came into proximity with the regime. He witnessed the waves of refugees fleeing Poipet, and visited the refugee camps on the border with Thailand, such as Khao-I-Dang. He witnessed the cruelty that took place in the Tuol Sleng torture camp in Phnom Penh, and the suffering of the victims of the omnipresent landmines, both in the forests and in the fields. He assisted in the transportation of child refugees and the supply of medication for Doctors without Borders, and also worked to clear land mines. His knowledge of the country also enabled him to help track many missing persons for Amnesty International.
In the second half of the 1990s, the situation in South-East Asia had calmed. However, Montyn continued to travel through Asia, accompanied by his trusty sketch pad, pencil, paintbrush and water colours. He recorded the experiences of his travels at home via his etchings, using his own unique imagery and his characteristic colour scheme."(janmontyncollection.com/jan-montyn )