6 October 2014
The Van Gogh Museum has expanded its collection with the purchase of works by Maurice Denis (1870-1943) and Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), two important late nineteenth century artists.
Financial support by the BankGiro Loterij enabled the museum to purchase the painting The Supper at Emmaus by Denis and the bronze sculpture She Who Was Once the Helmet-Maker's Beautiful Wife by Rodin, both acquired at the TEFAF Maastricht in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Managing Director Axel Rüger: “These acquisitions are a valuable addition to the Van Gogh Museum collection and will be shown to the public in the new presentation of the collection by the end of November. This renewed presentation will put Van Gogh in the context of his time, making it clear how his art related to that of his contemporaries.” The Rodin sculpture will be included in the presentation of Van Gogh's discovery of modern art in Paris, whereas the painting by Denis will be shown in the room dedicated to the young generation of artists coming after Van Gogh between 1890 and 1914.
The sculpture by Rodin is an important addition to the modest sculpture collection of the Van Gogh Museum. Next to works by Edgar Degas and Paul Gauguin, this sculpture is symbolic for the modern experiments in sculpture that took place in Paris at the time. Rodin played a major role among the avant-garde and his work brought about an important innovation in sculpture. She Who Was Once the Helmet-Maker's Beautiful Wife is experimental in more than one way: Rodin fully went against the classical ideals of beauty by focusing on the deterioration of the human body. He portrayed the fragile, gaunt body of an older woman who was once beautiful. Being a modern artist, he wanted to show how unmercifully life marks the flow of time, therewith evoking emotions in the viewer. The honesty of this sculpture must have appealed to Van Gogh a great deal, because he also wanted to express a 'feel for humanity' in his figures.
Maurice Denis is a major representative of the Nabis, a group of French artists including Félix Vallotton, Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard and others. The Nabis (prophets) searched for a new art in which imagination and personal experience were of prime importance. Simplification of shapes and decorative colour areas are characteristic features of their paintings and prints of mainly intimate indoor scenes. The painting The Supper at Emmaus (1894) is a perfect example. It is an intimate interior with decorative elements, highlighted by the painted frame. The contrast between the dark tonal interior and the colourful expressive background is highly effective. The subject is a biblical scene, but Denis places the visit of Christ in a personal setting. The artist himself sits on the right praying, while his wife Marthe enters from the left with a dish. The Supper at Emmaus will be on display in the room dedicated to the first generation of artists coming after Van Gogh who were inspired by the highly personal way in which Van Gogh had expressed the human condition. Denis described his admiration for the artist as follows: '…his scruple to tell everything that he feels, the insistence with which he affirms the most capricious movement of his sensibility…'