artists & participants
Helene Kröller-Müller's collection contained more than 11,500 works of art including almost 800 paint- ings; approximately 5,000 works on paper; some 275 large and small sculptures; non-Western objects and 500 pieces of applied arts.
Helene was inspired to start an art collection by the lessons in art ap- preciation she followed with the art historian, theorist and teacher H.P. Bremmer. His ideas had a great im- pact on her and she appointed him her advisor on 'aesthetic matters': "He gave me my first insight into art."
Bremmer brought artists to Helene's attention and visited auction houses, commercial galleries and artists' studios either with or on be- half of Helene and her husband Anthon Kröller, sometimes buying several works at once. "He bought them with an offer – a third of the asking price. He left trembling like a leaf, so happy was he with his catch."
The works of art were displayed in the couple's house in The Hague – Huize ten Vijver – where they could be viewed by friends, family and important visitors. The collection quickly outgrew this accommodation and furthermore Helene soon found that the house did not suit her newly won status as a patron of the arts. Her taste had changed and the house, which she described as pe- destrian and tiresome, began to annoy her. Following a trip to Florence, where she admired the buildings and art treasures of the Medicis, she decided to have a new house built.
In the meantime the collection was housed in a property belonging the family business – Wm. H. Müller & Co. – on the Lange Voorhout in The Hague, which was fitted out as a museum. The collection could be viewed from Monday to Friday from 10 to 4, but only with a ticket, "available upon a written request addressed to the collector herself".
In 1909 the Kröllers bought a dere- lict farm on the Veluwe with 450 hectares of land. Helene furnished the farmhouse Het Klaverblad with a small kitchen with a stove such as one finds in all the farmhouses in the Veluwe."
The couple's ambitious building plans also shifted to the Veluwe. H.P. Berlage, who was then in the service of Wm H. Müller & Co., de- signed the St Hubertus Hunting Lodge, which was completed in 1920. Helene decided that her collection should be shown not in Wassenaar but in the Veluwe with its stark and inescapable confrontation of nature and culture. Berlage produced gran- diose plans, but the couple chose the design of Henry van de Velde. In 1921 the laying of the founda- tions was begun. A specially laid railway line transported large blocks of sandstone to the Veluwe. How- ever, construction came to a halt when Wm H. Müller & Co. ran into financial difficulties.
Helene remained optimistic, but the recession deepened threatening even the collection. To safeguard the collection Helene donated it to the State under the condition that a museum be built to house it within five years. Henry van de Velde de- signed a 'temporary museum' and on 13 July 1938 the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller was officially opened. Helene became its first director and was finally able to show her collec- tion centred on Vincent van Gogh to the general public. Although Helene continued to hope to continue con- struction, the 'temporary museum' remained. With several extensions, it still forms a major part of the mu- seum complex.
The collection gives a clear picture of Helene's vision of art. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Helene was not interested in art- historical facts and stylistic periods. In her eyes there were two possible approaches to making art: realistic (art based on observation) and ide- alistic (with a personal interpretation of reality). She was uninterested in art with no direct relationship to re- ality. When, to her mind, Mondrian pushed his abstraction too far, she stopped buying his work. When Bart van der Leck, under Mondrian's in- fluence, completely abandoned re- alism, he was given an official 'warning': "The completely ab- stracted object no longer captivates because one's fantasy cannot get a grip. My feeling is that you and your present company think too much, thus killing your initial emotion."
With Bremmer's advice, Helene of- ten fulfilled the role of pioneer in her recognition of and admiration for new artists and movements. Even the cubists, including Pablo Pi- casso and Juan Gris, were able to rely on her support. She acquired several paintings and drawings by these artists and made impas- sioned pleas for this new move- ment. Together with Vincent van Gogh, Bart van der Leck, Henri Fantin-Latour and the sculptor Joseph Mendes da Costa, they can be considered amongst Helene's favourites.
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Helene Kröller-Müller´s collection
mit Johan Altorf, Joseph Mendes da Costa, Joseph Csaky, Henri Fantin-Latour, Vincent van Gogh, Josef Israels, Bart van der Leck, George Minne, Odilon Redon, Auguste Renoir, John Rädecker, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac