The vision of Helene Kröller
In 1925 Helene Kröller-Müller came out with her Observations on Issues in the Development of Modern Painting, which she published privately. In this book she identified two movements that have alternately held sway throughout the development of art: realism and idealism.
Both movements are based on observed reality. Those artists whom she regarded as realists are mainly concerned with observation: the use of light, the rendering of material and the effect of colour and perspective. Idealists tend to abstract the forms they are working with and offer a view of their ‘idea’ of reality.
In 1933 she wrote: ‘Part of the intention of forming this collection was to show - to prove - that abstract art is not something insurmountable but that it has always existed. That is why you find new and older works here side by side. I meant to use the old to support the right of the new to exist.’
Her personal favourite was Vincent van Gogh. His works constituted the heart of her collection. ‘His value lies not in his means of expression, his technique, but in his great and new humanity. He created modern Expressionism.’ During her lifetime she purchased 91 paintings and 180 works on paper by the Dutch painter.
Of the modern artists it was the Cubists she admired most. She bought works by Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris, and defended the new school with intense enthusiasm. She also had great admiration for the early work of Piet Mondriaan. Writing about his ‘Composition in Line’ from 1917, she said she regarded it as ‘Cubist art in its purest form’.