In November 1956, shortly before his unexpected death, the Zurich-based industrialist Emil Bührle recalled how his passion for collecting had arisen: ‘Monet’s magic would just not lose its hold on me, and I wanted to have Cézanne, Degas, Manet and Renoir around me all the time, on my walls.’ Within a few years he had amassed an astonishing number of outstanding works of art from all major periods, from the Gothic to the Cubist. Impressionism remained his greatest love, however, and here his interests coincided – and coincide – with those of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. Both were still competing for the finest paintings on the art market in the first half of the 1950s, and today, sixty years after Bührle’s death, some seventy masterworks from the two collections are entering into a unique dialogue at the Museum. Along with items by the artists named above, From Dürer to Van Gogh: Bührle Collection meets Wallraf features work by Dürer, Cuyp, Canaletto, Delacroix, Pissarro, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso and others. The exhibition runs from 23 September 2016 to 29 January 2017 and will be shown only in Cologne.
Leopold Reidemeister, a former director of the Museum, once said of Emil Bührle: ‘With all the time in the world, he would calmly spend half an hour in front of a Monet without ever remarking that he possessed paintings by the artist that were perhaps more important.’ By that time Bührle’s collection of European painting already ranked among the finest of all private collections. In 1960 his family placed a representative selection of some two hundred paintings and sculptures in a foundation, and these were displayed until May 2015 in the villa alongside his house. The collection will not be on public view again until 2020, when it is to be housed in an extension to the Kunsthaus in Zurich. This has given the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum an exceptional opportunity to present a number of exquisite works from the collection in conjunction with items from its own holdings.