A chest of 3400 letters lies at the heart of a biography of Helene Kröller-Müller (1869-1939), the founder of the museum that bears her name in Otterlo. The biography, ‘De eeuwigheid verzameld’ [Collecting Eternity], will be published soon. Thanks to this unique source material, author Eva Rovers has been able to throw new light on the most famous art collector in the Netherlands. Kröller-Müller turns out indeed to have been very important for the acceptance of modern art in the Netherlands. Her collecting passion was fuelled not so much by a great love of art as by an almost religious mania. Although she lived most of her life in the Netherlands, her German origins turn out to have played a major role in her views on art and politics throughout her life. Rovers will be awarded a PhD for her research by the University of Groningen on 15 November.
In December 2005, the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo was bequeathed the archive of Sam van Deventer, a confidant of Helene Kröller-Müller. This ‘Van Deventer’s chest’ contained over 3400 letters, most written by Helene herself. Eva Rovers was the first, and thus far the only, person to be granted access to this archive:‘Helene emerges as a stubborn, determined woman. She dismissed the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, fought so hard with Berlage that he resigned his job, and was also difficult for many other people around her, but she really wanted to share her insights and her collection with others. ’It was this passion that led her as early as 1913 to make her collection of modern art, one of the largest in Europe, accessible to the public. Until the 1930s, it was only possible to admire geniuses like Van Gogh, Picasso and Mondrian in her exhibition rooms.
In honour of the publication of the book, Rovers has designed an exhibition in the Kröller-Müller Museum, entitled ‘De mannen van Helene. Het leven, de liefde, de kunst en het bouwen’ [Helene’s Men. Life, Love, Art and Building].The exhibition will also show a documentary by Leo de Boer made for IDTVdocs/NTR, which tracked Rovers during her research.The documentary will be broadcast on 4 January in the programme Het Uur van de Wolf.
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