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Biography Joanna Maria Tak van Poortvliet (1871-1936)

Marie Tak van Poortvliet
Marie Tak van Poortvliet

Marie Tak van Poortvliet was the first collector of modern art in The Netherlands. In 1920, her art collection was regarded as very progressive. It comprised of about 200 works of among others Georges Braque, Heinrich Campendonk, Lyonel Feiniger, Emil Filla, Jacoba van Heemskerck, Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Le Fauconnier, Ferdinand Léger, Franz Marc and Piet Mondriaan. Top pieces of this collection, such as Lyrisches (1911) by Wassily Kandinsky, Das Schaf (1913-14) by Franz Marc and Avond (Rode Boom) (1908-10) by Piet Mondriaan, are part of the Dutch national art collection. Reconstructing and describing this art collection will be an important part of this biography. The study will focus among other things on the question why she chose for modern art so explicitly and opposed the conservative Dutch art climate at the time. What was her contribution to modernism and how did she give shape to this in relation to the great changes in society?

This biography will for the first time describe her life story. During her life she showed social responsibility and initiative power in many areas: as an art patron, a reviewer for leading music magazine Caecilia (1844-1944), as an art critic and as a collector of modern art. She also showed close political involvement during and after World War I; she initiated the first clinic for anthroposophical medicine, she set up the magazine for Social Threefolding ( Drieleedige Indeling van het Sociale Organisme) and created the first Biodynamic farm, (Cultuurmaatschappij Loverendale), including the Demeter quality trademark for biodynamic agriculture.

This biographical study will describe her family descent as well as the sociocultural context in which she lived in order to offer a wider perspective on her engagement with the arts, politics and agriculture. It will be an elaboration of Jacoba van Heemskerck van Beest 1876-1923. Schilderes uit roepingby A. Huussen and J.F.A. van Paaschen-Louwerse. In this monography, publised in 2005, Marie Tak’s life was discribed only briefly. In this study her personal background and activities within the avant-garde movement will be put in historical perspective.

Marie Tak van Poortvliet was the eldest daughter of Christina Louisa Henrietta Geertruida van Oordt (1850-1897) and Mr. Joannes Pieter Roetert Tak van Poortvliet (1939-1904), from 1891 to 1894 Minister of the Interior. The family of her father had their roots in the Dutch province of Zeeland. Her ancestors were employed by the West and East Indian Company, they were also delegates of the States of Zeeland and big landowners. After the dead of her father in 1904 she inherited a substantial fortune and landed possessions and so became a wealthy woman at the age of 33.

In the artist village Domburg (Zeeland) she built Villa Loverendale with an atelier for her partner, artist Jacoba van Heemskerck. In this villa the ladies welcomed guests like Piet Mondriaan, Lodewijk Schelfhout, Wilhelm Uhde, and Herwarth and Nel Walden. Marie Tak van Poortvliet’s financial and conceptual support enabled Jacoba van Heemskerck to fully focus on the development of her autonomous work.

The biography will demonstrate that the acceptance of both women by the expressionist art circle Der Sturm of Herwarth Walden in Berlin was not only important for their development as a professional art critic and an artist with a personal style, but also enabled them to freely manifest themselves as a lesbian couple. On the other hand, the study will throw a light on the question whether both women had been used by Walden for his work for the German cultural political propaganda during World War I and the extent to which the two women had a notion of the role of culture as a tool for power politics.

In 1915 they both became members of the ‘Anthroposofische Gesellschaft’ of Rudolf Steiner. The study will describe how they dealt with the ideas of theosophy and anthroposophy. In 1919 Marie Tak van Poortvliet became an active advocate of the socalled Threefolding movement, initiated by Steiner. This movement was striving for a new social order, abandoning the old economic and military power politics. Based on the Threefolding ideas several new institutions have been set up in The Netherlands and her role and contribution to this will be further elaborated.

In 1936 Marie Tak van Poortvliet passed away in Dornach, Switzerland, close to the Goetheanum – the international centre for Anthroposophy – in a state of loneliness and poverty. After Jacoba van Heemskerck’s death in 1923, she had put all her effort and money in the innovation of agriculture by introducing Steiner’s biodynamic principles on her landholdings in Zeeland and Brabant.

This study will contribute to the history of modernism as a reaction on the conservative cultural, political and economic climate of the interbellum.

The research is being conducted by Jacqueline van Paaschen. Supervisors of this project are prof. Hans Renders and dr. Peter de Ruiter.


Last modified:14 July 2022 1.25 p.m.
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