Key work being restored specially for Johan Thorn Prikker exhibition

Harbour Industry (detail) (1917-1918) Mixed media 414 x 339cm Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Harbour Industry (detail) (1917-1918) Mixed media 414 x 339cm Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Press release

Key work from the museum’s collection being restored specially for Johan Thorn Prikker exhibition
1 November 2010

The exhibition ‘Beyond Art Nouveau’ about the sensational yet relatively unknown oeuvre of the artist and designer Johan Thorn Prikker opens on 13 November. One of his key works – The Harbour Industry (1918) – is part of the museum’s collection and is being restored specially for the exhibition. This painting will be publicly exhibited for the first time in many years. New research has indicated that the acquisition of this painting in 1922 represented the museum’s first step towards building a collection of contemporary art.

The painting, dating from 1918, shows six men working in Rotterdam’s harbour in a style that combines stylistic elements of Cubism and Expressionism. It was Johan Thorn Prikker’s (1868-1932) entry to a competition to paint a monumental mural for the council chamber of Rotterdam’s new City Hall but the jury considered it too modern. However, ten years later the artist did win the commission to paint eight wall paintings in the City Hall’s reception, where they can still be admired today.

Crucial work
The painting, which measures more than four by three metres, is currently undergoing restoration. The Harbour Industry is a crucial work and demonstrates that Thorn Prikker was more than just an Art Nouveau designer, for which he is best known to many people. This painting played an important role in the breakthrough of modern art in the Netherlands. This aspect of his oeuvre has largely been forgotten in the Netherlands but in Germany he is admired for his pioneering role. He was also one of the first Dutch members of the Deutsche Werkbund.

Beyond Art Nouveau
The rebellious artist Johan Thorn Prikker, a contemporary of Kees van Dongen, attracted attention early on for his political drawings and Symbolist paintings. Soon after his move to Germany in 1904 he quickly abandoned fine art to be come an impassioned champion of applied and monumental art. The traditional easel painting was now a thing of the past; instead he embraced a wide range of other media: from printmaking, textiles, bookbindings and stained glass to wall paintings, furniture and mosaics. The exhibition Beyond Art Nouveau provides a detailed insight into his diverse body of work.

‘Beyond Art Nouveau’ has been organised in partnership with Museum Kunst Palast in Düsseldorf, where the exhibition will be shown in the spring of 2011. The exhibition has been co-curated by guest curator and Thorn Prikker expert, Christiane Heiser. The exhibition is accompanies by a richly illustrated catalogue with essays by twelve specialists from the Netherlands, Germany and Canada. The catalogue can be purchased online via:
On 21 November there will be a lecture that will compare Kees van Dongen and Johan Thorn Prikker and on 27 November the museum is organising Johan Thorn Prikker theme day. Each Sunday from 13 November there are free guided tours of the exhibition. For more information visit: From the end of November you can watch a film about Johan Thorn Prikker by Bert Koenderink on the museum’s online video channel: