From today, and for the first time, the complete correspondence between Dutch collector Andries Bonger (1861–1936) and French artist Odilon Redon (1840–1916) is accessible. Between 1894 and 1908, Andries Bonger (friend of the van Gogh brothers and brother of Jo, wife of Theo van Gogh) assembled an impressive collection of artworks by Redon, most of which are housed at the Van Gogh Museum. Not only did Bonger and Redon build the collection together, they also had a lifelong close friendship based on mutual trust and respect.
With the publication of this extensive correspondence consisting of 317 letters, Bonger, an important figure in the story of the Van Gogh Museum’s collection, has finally been given a voice. The temporary exhibition Andries Bonger and Odilon Redon. Kindred Spirits explores the special relationship between Bonger and Redon, and displays Bonger’s finest Redons.
Friend and Admirer
Andries Bonger met Odilon Redon through painter Émile Bernard and art dealer Theo van Gogh. Bonger was immediately captivated by Redon’s oeuvre: he regarded the French artist’s mysterious work as the pinnacle of contemporary art. He soon became an enthusiastic collector of Redon’s work, building what would become one of the most complete collections of Redon’s work in the world. In doing so, Bonger was far ahead of his Dutch contemporaries.
‘Looking over my collection as a whole, I’m astonished by the variety of your art. Moreover, it offers the rare spectacle of a new blossoming, at a time when so many others have stiffened to a uniform note. I never leave the house in the morning without looking at them in the evening, they offer me precious companionship; by now, I can no longer manage without it for very long.’
Bonger to Redon (1903)
Bonger was not only a great collector of Redon’s work, but also became the artist’s most important confidant. The two shared a passion for music, literature and the visual arts, corresponded frequently and visited each other regularly. Until now, the hundreds of long letters that Bonger wrote to Redon were unavailable, but the publication of the French book Sans adieu (Without Farewell) has changed all this. The book, which includes the correspondence and is published by Cohen & Cohen Éditeurs, has finally given Bonger (brother of Jo Bonger, Theo van Gogh’s wife) a voice.
Furthermore, as of today, a video series of the correspondence is available via the Van Gogh Museum's YouTube channel. In this series, award-winning International Theatre Amsterdam actors Hans Kesting (b. 1960) and Hugo Koolschijn (b. 1946) read some of the most beautiful extracts of the extensive correspondence between artist and collector.