From Florapark in Haarlem to Museumpark in Rotterdam (1935)

On 6 July 1935, at the opening of the new Museum Boijmans, an official announcement was made about the acquisition of the Koenigs Collection on loan in the presence of the collector and his wife. [1-1-2.pdf] In his foreword to the catalogue Museum Boijmans Rotterdam. Verzameling F. Koenigs schilderijen published specially for the occasion, themuseum’s director, Dr Dirk Hannema wrote: ‘Only those with intimate knowledge of this world-famous collection, which has been put together over the years with a rare understanding of aesthetic values, can appreciate what such an enrichment means for a museum’. And he continued: ‘With what Boijmans has of these masters, the Rotterdam museum outstrips all the Dutch collections and can rival the greatest in Europe’.

The collection was insured in 1935 against fire and against damages during transport for 2.5m guilders, with the drawings accounting for 1.8m of that total. This insurance was added to the museum’s main policy. [1-1-9.pdf]

The loan of the collection had probably been planned for some time. The museum had already received the painting Les Deux Amies by Toulouse-Lautrec on loan at the beginning of 1933. [1-1-1.pdf]  Two exhibitions were held in Schielandhuis in December 1934 and January 1935, prior to the closure of the museum’s old premises on 31 March: Dutch Drawings of the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries. The F. Koenigs Collection, and One Hundred Old French Drawings from the F. Koenigs Collection.

L: The old Museum Boijmans, 1890
R: The new Museum Boijmans and the Museumpark, 1935

The new museum was built on the Dijkzigt estate in a small polder between the Westzeedijk, Westersingel and Mathenesserlaan. It was designed by the architect A.J. van der Steur in close consultation with Hannema, both of whom made detailed preparations and visited new museums in Europe and the United States in order to create a museum in Rotterdam that met all the latest requirements.

The arrival of the loan of 47 paintings and more than 2,000 drawings from the Koenigs Collection had already been taken into account. The new museum had a well-equipped printroom occupying various rooms on the ground floor: a storage room, a study room in the library, and three interconnected exhibition galleries. The curator was the art historian Dr J.G. van Gelder (see ‘In conclusion’ below). Hieronymus Bosch’s St Christopher, which was one of the loans from Koenigs, marked the beginning of the chronological display, and there were also several works from the Koenigs loan in the Rubens gallery.

Further exhibitions of works from the Koenigs Collection were staged in 1935 and 1936. Nineteenth-century French drawings were on show from December 1935 to January 1936 in the exhibition Drawings by Ingres, Delacroix, Gericault, Daumier from the Koenigs Collection. Paintings from the loan formed part of the large 1936 summer exhibition Hieronymus Bosch and the Northern Netherlandish Primitives. Several sheets were also lent to other exhibitions at home and abroad. [1-4-2.pdf] Two important drawings by Dürer and Grünewald were actually in New York when war broke out and were not returned until 1947. [1-1-14.pdf] /[2-4-1.pdf]

The Museum Boijmans printroom: the exhibition gallery (1935-1971), 1947

Dr Helmuth Lütjens, who had advised Koenigs for years and was also a German (he took Dutch nationality in 1939), became the director of the Paul Cassirer gallery in Amsterdam on 12 June 1923. When the loan was made to the museum he handed over a typescript inventory book [ill.]. The German art historian Dr Ernst Scheyer had started work on a typescript catalogue of the 17th-century Dutch drawings before emigrating to the United States in 1935. These two documents formed the basis for the full catalogue of the collection, and provided scholarly access to it together with the exhibition catalogues. The museum started photographing the collection on glass negatives in 1935-1940.

L: Inventory book by Dr Helmuth Lütjens, c. 1931-1935  - Specimen pages: [10SpaanseTekeningen.pdf]
R: Typescript catalogue by Dr Ernst Scheyer, 1935  - Specimen pages: 

Immediately after being transferred to the museum the drawings were given the collector’s mark of ‘FK’ in a horizontal oval (see the illustration on the following page). >MORE This mark was added inconspicuously to every drawing, usually in the bottom left corner on the reverse. The stamp and the tin with brown ink are still preserved in the museum [ill.]. The drawings and prints from the second Koenigs Collection (see below) are not marked.

L: The tin of brown ink and Koenigs’s collector’s stamp
R: Koenigs’s collector’s mark (L. 1023a)

The correspondence between Dirk Hannema and Mr and Mrs Koenigs, which is preserved in the museum’s archives, testifies to mutual respect and trust. At the end of 1937 Mrs Koenigs asked Hannema to support the couple’s application for naturalisation. [1-1-12.pdf] It had to be done in a hurry due to the approaching adulthood of their son F.F.R. Koenigs (1918-2000), who ran the risk of being called up for military service in Germany (children who were minors were automatically naturalised along with their parents). The family became Dutch citizens on 9 February 1939, which eliminated the threat of their son’s conscription.

Next: The Koenigs Collection becomes the property of the liquidating bank (1940)