It has been raining all day, so the Kröller-Müller Museum was the perfect destination. (I would have spent even a sunny day there, though.) I arrived shortly after it opened and had the gallery to myself for half an hour, so I was thoroughly smug. So much to see, but at least Helene Kröller-Müller kept her collection coherent, so there was none of that attempt to take in Giotto to Monet in two hours.
Lots of Van Gogh, of course, from his muddy phase to his dazzling phase. He’s not one of my favourite painters, but sometimes I am struck by his colour. Otherwise I find his dark paintings unattractive and his French paintings too irksome to the eye. These I did like:
and of these I go “hmmm”, despite Van Gogh’s sincerity:
I still don’t get Piet Mondrian and his theosophy. His works make nice coasters, is all I think. Theo van Doesburg is more fun. At least the Italian Futurists were communicating something about the changing world:
For pleasure, I always seek out a few landscapes – a form that lends itself to different styles. I have the shamefaced suspicion that it’s just because I imagine travelling through them; I have an urge to photoshop a bike onto Cézanne’s road.
And then back to Henry van de Velde, who deserves a place in his own building. (I’m slightly surprised I liked this, as a cluster of Seurats were enough to put me off pointillism for ever.)
I poked my nose into the Jean/Hans Arp exhibition (I liked the way his forename and Strasbourg/Straßburg birthplace reflected the flexibility of his art) but I really didn’t have the stamina for any more culture. What I do recall is Arp’s assertion, as an old man, that as an art student he was tired of copying the old masters, the old forms, the old techniques. We know how to behave in front of conventional artworks; how about presenting the viewer with something new that s/he doesn’t know how to react to?
After a restorative ride in the rain to the Jachthuis Sint Hubertus (the home of Helene and Anton Kröller Müller), I was ready to face a Gesamtkunstwerk. It made Hill House look minor. Designed by Hendrik Berlage 1914-20, it’s all brick, inside and out because brick is Dutch. (Shades of the nationalist architectural style of Stockholm’s City Hall.)
I went on the guided tour, which took in 5 rooms. It was interesting, but brick – much as I love it for exteriors – doesn’t lend itself to homely interiors. Berlage controlled the design so tightly that the feet of the sideboard in the entrance hall line up perfectly with the tiled floor. He was annoyed when Helene Kröller Müller insisted on a bay window so that she could enjoy the view of the lake. The colour scheme adhered to the colour theory of the time: green and black tiles on the floor for grass and earth; blue and yellow glazed brick on the ceiling for the sky and sun. The style was, supposedly, “English country house”. I guess that was the smoking room then.
Dutch architecture of the Art Nouveau/Jugendstil period always looks quite different from anything French, Belgian or German, and it did occur to me here if it is because of the ubiquitous brick. Its straight lines don’t lend themselves to the whiplash tendrils of Victor Horta. Cycling through Den Haag or Amersfoort, I’ve noticed what looks like Art Nouveau, but it’s particular. I shall put it down to the brick: even when there appear to be curves, they are, in fact, lots of straight lines.
As an aside, Van Gogh is everywhere in Otterlo:
And Otterlo is also the site of the last WWII battle for the liberation of The Netherlands. This links in with the brand new Grebbelinie Museum, where I had a coffee yesterday and was trying to understand what it was all about. The Grebbe Line was established in 1745 to protect the country against invading armies – by flooding it – but it didn’t work in 1940.