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Biography of Helene Kröller-Müller

Biography of Helene Kröller-Müller (1869-1939)

In the early decades of the twentieth century art collectors served as an important compass which helped modern art find its way into museum systems around the world. Helene Kröller-Müller is exemplary for this phenomenon; her methodical manner of collecting and her aim to leave the Dutch people a ‘monument of culture’ after her death both contributed to the introduction and recognition of modern art in The Netherlands.

Who was this woman who seemed hardly interested in art until the age of thirty five, and who suddenly placed her life and a considerable part of her family’s fortune in the service of a collection of modern art? And what was the influence on both the course of her life as on Kröller-Müller's notions of art, exercised respectively by her husband Anton Kröller, her mentor Henk Bremmer and her confidant Sam Van Deventer? On the one hand this biography will address these questions concerning the person Kröller-Müller. On the other the collector Kröller-Müller will be explored in order to define to which extent Kröller-Müller was exemplary of early twentieth century Dutch (and possibly west-European) collectors of modern art.

Despite the various books on Kröller-Müller that have been published over the years, a lacuna exists. The 1956 double biography of Müller and her husband by Sam van Deventer is solid and precise, though it is hardly documented and written from a personal point of view which provokes a strong sense of subjectivity. Two more recent publications, Miljoenen, Macht en Meestwerken by Wim Nijhof and HKM by Piet de Jonge (ed.), intend to be sketch, focusing only on her life’s highlights and downfall. A thorough, academic account of Kröller-Müller's life will bridge this lacuna.

Helene Kröller-Müller and the breakthrough of modern art

Boek van de week, NRC Handelsblad 10 december 2010.

de Volkskrant 29 januari 2011.

Historisch Nieuwsblad 20(2011)1, februari, p. 81-82.

Biographer of Helene Kröller-Müller

Between 2006 en 2010 Eva Rovers wrote the biography of the art collector Helene Kröller-Müller (1869-1939). This research, which led to a PhD thesis in 2010, was supervised by the Institute of Biography and occurred in cooperation with the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo. Supervising professors were prof. Hans Renders and prof. Wessel Krul. In 2008 Eva organised the international confernce: 'The art collector: between philanthropy and self-glorification'. She was also guest editor of the Oxford Journal of the History of Collections.

Eva Rovers (1978) studied art history at the University of Utrecht. Her master thesis explored Piet Mondriaan’s influence on American abstract painters in the 1940s. Following her graduation she taught art policy at this same university and took place in several boards of cultural organisations.

Email: E.M.Rovers@rug.nl / info@evarovers.nl

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