CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Van Gogh to Mondrian: Dutch works on paper

Exhibition: 25 July - 24 September 2000

From the museum website, 27 February 2009

In recent years there has been on the part of the international art public and collectors a growing curiosity about the early formative years of modern art in Holland. This curiosity is directed not only toward the established “stars” such as Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondrian but also toward such figures as the multi-faceted Symbolist artist Jan Toorop, the Amsterdam Impressionist of urban life George Hendrik Breitner or the many artists and designers who participated in the vigorous Dutch Arts and Crafts movement of the 1890s.

Van Gogh to Mondrian, organized by the staff of the Rijksprentenkabinet, the Print Room of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, brings together some 100 works on paper of superlative quality (watercolors, drawings, prints, posters, illustrated books and photographs) by some 40 Dutch artists that document and dramatize progressive movements in the visual arts in the thirty year period from about 1885 to about 1915. The exhibition begins with the late drawings of Van Gogh made in the south of France and in Auvers, the village where he committed suicide in 1890, and closes with a great 1911 Mondrian apple tree drawing in which Cubism is being born in the spaces between the tree’s intricately interlacing branches. The works in the exhibition are primarily drawn from the rich collection of the Rijksmuseum supplemented by a few major loans from Dutch collections public and private. The exhibition, which is an exchange for the exhibition of American watercolors, Awash in Color, which the Museum of Fine Arts lent to Amsterdam in 1996, will first be shown in Amsterdam (1/22-4/9/00) and then in Boston July 25–November 5, 2000. For the Boston showing relevant works from the MFA’s, and Boston area collections will be added.

The exhibition introduces a number of leading Dutch realists or “dark” Impressionists, among them the poetic and intimate works of Floris Verster and the Amsterdam Impressionists concerned with the portrayal of modern street life: Breitner, Willem Witsen and Isaac Israels. The watercolors of the first two and the pastels of the latter are among the most powerful and captivating works in the exhibition. Breitner and Witsen are also represented in the exhibition by their photographic street views and nudes (Breitner) and portraits (Witsen portrait of the poet Verlaine).

More significant in terms of the modern imagination and the advance of linear abstraction are major Symbolist drawings of Toorop and Johan Thorn Prikker. In one of Toorop’s allegorical drawings, Line Play of 1893, with its spiraling art nouveau rhythms inspired by Javanese art, the composition also includes the carved frame. Toorop was of part-Javanese origin but more than one Dutch artist looked to the East for inspiration. Marius Bauer’s fantasies of Asian bazaars and temples, for example, are here magnificently embodied in his large-scale watercolor of the Taj Mahal by moonlight.

The lively, inventive Dutch Arts and Craft movement, stimulated both by the forms of exotic art and those of nature, is represented by illustrations, book bindings, posters and decorative calendars. Among the posters are the famous early modern architect Berlage’s rare 1890s tramway poster or Bart van der Leck’s 1914 steamship poster that anticipates the development of the geometric “De Stijl” movement of which Mondrian was to be the most famous practitioner. Works by artists active in Paris around 1900-1910 such as Kees van Dongen and Jan Sluijters introduce the 20th century’s fascination with the expressiveness of pure color and line.

The exhibition is thematically woven together by the juxtaposition of quite diverse artists’ treatment of the same themes: landscape, cityscapes, portraits, still lifes, flowers, birds and animals. The category of birds and animals includes the delightfully stylized creatures of the children’s book illustrator and calendar designer, Theo Hoytema.


Van Gogh to Mondrian: Dutch works on paper
Carel Blotkamp and others, with contributions by Irene de Groot and Marijn
Schapelhouman, translated from the Dutch by Barbara Potter Fasting
Catalogue of an exhibition held in 2000 in Amsterdam (Rijksmuseum) and Boston (Museum of Fine Arts)
184 pp.
Zwolle (Waanders) and Amsterdam (Rijksmuseum) 2000
ISBN 90-400-9414-4

Rond 1900: kunst op papier in Nederland
Carel Blotkamp and others, with contributions by Irene de Groot and Marijn
Catalogue of an exhibition held in 2000 in Amsterdam (Rijksmuseum) and Boston (Museum of Fine Arts)
184 pp., 30 cm.
Amsterdam (Rijksmuseum) and Zwolle (Waanders) 2000
ISBN 90-400-9404-7 (paperbound)

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