The Rembrandt Association
In 1883, A small number of wealthy art lovers helped acquire at auction in Amsterdam some five hundred of the most important drawings from the collection of Jacob de Vos for the print room of the Rijksmuseum. It was a spectacular move, which doubled the number of drawings in the fledgling print room’s collection. It was also the beginning of what was to become an extraordinary story of private support for Dutch public art collections, for the initiative resulted in the establishment of the Vereniging Rembrandt.
In 1892, the Vereniging Rembrandt persuaded the state to share in the costs of buying a first Vermeer for the Rijksmuseum, and in similar fashion it sponsored in 1900 the acquisition of the Rijksmuseum’s first Rembrandt. The early history of the Vereniging Rembrandt is very much about this matching of private and public money to collect the art of the Dutch Golden Age for Holland, but after 1914 its horizon widened to include Western European and Asian art. After 1945, it also opened up to modern art and to other cultures. In 1983, the Vereniging celebrated its centenary by supporting the acquisition of two recent works by Willem de Kooning for the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
When the Vereniging celebrated its 125th birthday in 2008, it had supported almost two thousand acquisitions for over 125 Dutch museums, ranging from the most costly, such as Hieronymus Bosch’s Prodigal son for Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, and Matisse’s perhaps finest paper cutout, La perruche et la sirène, for the Stedelijk Museum, to hundreds of more modest but always more than locally relevant acquisitions for dozens of smaller collections. What had begun with support for the acquisition of a Jan van Goyen for Leiden and two works by Hendrick Ter Brugghen for Utrecht, was extended to the acquisition of local silver for the municipal collections of Deventer and Zutphen and a seminal group of works by Jan Mankes for Arnhem and by Hendrik Werkman for Groningen.
And this is still the Vereniging’s policy today: to help Dutch museums acquire works of art which are important to the receiving collection in particular, but which also make sense in the larger landscape of Dutch public art collections. Thus, in 2014, the Vereniging was happy to be able to provide the leading gift for the Bacchic figure by Adriaen de Vries for the Rijksmuseum, knowing well, however, that the Museum Prinsenhof, Delft, would take similar pride in its proposed acquisition of Hendrick van Vliet’s Interior of the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft, with the memorial tablet of Adriaen Teding van Berkhout, and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in the very first work by Vilhelm Hammershøi to enter a Dutch museum collection (see pp.97–98 above). And no doubt some of the Vereniging’s 13,000 members will have taken special delight in the beautiful decanter by Andries Dirk Copier that was bought for the museum in Leerdam, while others might be moved by Steve McQueen’s confronting video Running Thunder.
Over the year 2015, thirty-five such acquisitions were supported with over €7.5 million, and fifteen institutions and millions of visitors to Dutch public art collections have benefited from this. In an extraordinary echo of its very first efforts, sixteen of these acquisitions were drawings bought at the recent auctions of the Van Regteren Altena collection. Six print rooms in the Netherlands were enriched with drawings bought at these sales, ranging from a study by Jan van Scorel for his altarpiece in Breda to a series of drawings that Kees van Dongen made of the festivities for Queen Wilhelmina’s wedding in 1901.