03 October 2015 till 03 January 2016

Colour Unleashed

Modern Art in the Low Countries 1885-1914

In the brief period between 1885 and the outbreak of war in 1914 painting in the Low countries experienced a modern Renaissance. Colour was liberated from the chains of visual reality. Suddenly, grass could be a cool blue, a face could be bright purple, and trees turned red. Colour had become an autonomous means of expression. This was one of the most important developments in modern art history. The inspiration came from the French Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists, but the artists of the Low Countries added their own flavour.

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag is to bring these Dutch and Belgian masters together to reveal the interaction between the two countries. This unique exhibition has been made possible thanks partly to the current renovation of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, as a result of which some of the top items in its collection can now travel to other museums. From the French ‘godfathers of colour’ – Claude Monet, Paul Signac, Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne and the like – to the masters of the Low Countries, such as Leo Gestel, Jan Toorop, Piet Mondrian, James Ensor, Jan Sluijters, Henry van de Velde and Rik Wouters: they will all be brought together in a true feast for the eye.

Rik Wouters
The exhibition will include a special focus on Belgian artist Rik Wouters (1882-1916). In his short life, this painter and sculptor produced an exquisite body of work. His paintings, many of them featuring his wife Nel, vibrate with colour and light. He is a great favourite with the Belgian public, but in the Netherlands he has never received the attention his work deserves. An entire gallery will therefore be devoted to him during the exhibition.

Restoration project
In preparation for Colour Unleashed the Gemeentemuseum has worked on a project that has included a technical study and restoration of a number of important paintings from the collection. The varnish was removed and the paint surface cleaned to reveal the original layers of paint, allowing the paintings to glow as the artists intended. For instance, the somewhat gloomy Baby’s Bedroom by Jan Sluijters suddenly dazzles in pink and yellow, and the green in Little House in Sunlight by Piet Mondrian turns out to consist of many shades of blue, while the flowers in the garden in Jan Toorop’s Trio Fleuri bloom in full colour once more.

A catalogue with contributions from Frouke van Dijke, Doede Hardeman, Anita Hopmans, Hans Janssen, Caroline Roodenburg and Herwig Todts is to be published in Dutch in conjunction with the exhibition.

The exhibition is sponsored by: