‘Greatest Surrealist of us all’ added to Dutch cultural heritage. State Secretary Uslu unveils a new jewel in the crown of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection - a painting by Joan Miró.
An early painting by the legendary Spanish painter Joan Miró has entered Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection. It is the museum’s most expensive purchase ever. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is most grateful to the Rembrandt Association, the Mondriaan Fonds and the dozens of funds and donors involved for their contributions, which have enabled the work to join the collection in Rotterdam, and in so doing Dutch public art holdings, too. André Breton, the founder of Surrealism, described Miró as ‘the greatest Surrealist of us all’. Peinture-poème (Musique, Seine, Michel, Bataille et moi) (1927) was officially added to the blockbusters in the Boijmans Collection on 29 September by Gunay Uslu, State Secretary for Culture and Media. The addition of the painting to the Surrealist collection is important to the museum, the only one in the Netherlands with such holdings, because for many years the acquisition of paintings by Miró was considered impossible. The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Collection contains Surrealist masterpieces by Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Francis Picabia, René Magritte, Unica Zürn, Leonora Carrington and others. It is fair to describe this collection as unique. It has been made possible by the museum’s many friends, funds and government agencies.
Gunay Uslu – State Secretary for Culture and Media: ‘This painting is an important addition to our Dutch cultural heritage. It is a significant key work in Miró’s oeuvre and an underpinning of the national collection because of the influence he had on the CoBrA group. Thanks to the efforts of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the State, the Rembrandt Association and other benefactors, a very great many people will now be able to enjoy this fascinating work.’
Sjarel Ex, Director, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen: ‘The Surrealist collection explores the treasures and caverns of the human mind, conveys the need for a new world order, defies hierarchy and a middle-class mentality. The Surrealists are a unique component of the collection in Rotterdam and we receive requests for loans from all over the world every week, and sometimes even every day. A Miró like this has been an absence in the collection from the outset. But, as soon as we know what we want, we have time. If necessary, we can wait five generations for a particular painting. The wait is over. My heartfelt thanks to all public and private funds for this wonderful addition to Dutch national art treasures.’
Geert-Jan Janse, Director, Rembrandt Association: ‘The Rembrandt Association aims to make the best of art available and accessible to the broadest possible audience and help museums to be ambitious in their collecting. The acquisition of this important painting by Miró fulfils a long-cherished – and long regarded as impossible – wish of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. This fantastic purchase shows what can be achieved for Dutch cultural heritage when we join forces. I am immensely grateful to the more than seventeen thousand members of the Rembrandt Association for their involvement in our national art holdings.’
Eelco van der Lingen, Director, Mondriaan Fonds: ‘The painting Peinture-poème is a major turning point in Miró’s oeuvre. It is particularly significant in that it marks the moment when the artist turned his back on academic painting and developed his own unique organic visual idiom within abstract Surrealism. This became an important link to other art movements and trends, but it was poorly represented in the Dutch national art collection. This makes it a very special acquisition for the Netherlands and for the Dutch public!’
At first impossible, but ultimately successful
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen holds a collection of Surrealist and fantastical art that is unequalled in the Netherlands. This collection of Surrealist masterpieces grew out of friendships with the British poet Edward James (1907-1984). In the mid-nineteen-thirties this patron befriended artists – Salvador Dalí and René Magritte among them – and supported them with purchases and commissions. The works from the James Collection that the museum acquired at the end of the nineteen-seventies through the mediation of Renilde Hammacher, who was our chief modern art curator at the time, are highlights of the oeuvres of both artists. This marked the creation of the core collection, which has been gradually expanded. There were many successful purchases – and a few missed opportunities. Former director Coert Ebbinge Wubben said in a 1987 interview: ‘Of course we had to have Tanguy and … Miró. The two huge gaps are Tanguy and Miró, and I fear they’ll never come.’ Now, though, the last of them has arrived, thanks to the help of the Rembrandt Association and the Mondriaan Fonds, among others. The acquisition of Miró’s 'Peinture-poème' means that after so many years of waiting and missed opportunities Dutch national art treasures now include an intriguing early painting by this influential Spanish artist, and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has the cornerstone it needs to tell the world the vibrant story of Surrealism.
Ripples in the water
'Peinture-Poème (Musique, Seine, Michel, Bataille et moi)' is one of the last of Miró’s ‘dream’ paintings, a group of works he made between 1924 and 1927. They demonstrated at the beginning of his career that, in his view, reality was greater than what it is normally taken to mean. Over the years, Surrealist artists have developed different methods and techniques for excluding rational thinking when making their work, from playing games to using alcohol and drugs, from accidentally found objects or structures to trances, hypnosis and – as Miró confessed – starvation. This new acquisition is a striking example of such Surrealist ideas and techniques. Afterwards Miró said of the painting: ‘I loved making ripples in the water. I loved the reflections and the changing colours in the changing light. Shortly afterwards I painted a picture that conjured up the walks along the river.’
We were able to purchase 'Peinture-poème' thanks to the support of the Rembrandt Association (thanks in part to its Nationaal Fonds Kunstbezit, its Dura Kunstfonds, its Innorosa Fonds, its Themafonds Moderne Kunst and the annual Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds contribution), the Museaal Aankoopfonds, the Mondriaan Fonds, the Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the VriendenLoterij, the Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht, the G.Ph. Verhagen-Stichting, the Van Eyck Circle, Boijmans Business Club and Boijmans Corporate Members, the Stichting Elise Mathilde Fonds, the Erasmus Foundation and a number of private individuals.