Museum Bredius foundation
Museum Bredius houses an exquisite collection acquired by nineteenth-century collector Abraham Bredius, director of the Mauritshuis for many years. Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder are closely involved in the organisation of the museum. When local government cuts forced the museum to close in 1985, John Hoogsteder personally ensured that the museum was able to reopen in 1990.
When the museum found itself in difficulties in 1995, Hoogsteder purchased Lange Vijverberg 16 and rented it to the museum for the symbolic amount of one Dutch guilder. Both Hoogsteders, father and son, remain closely involved with the museum, as members of the board and as curators, hosting many successful exhibitions.
In 2011, John Hoogsteder was appointed officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau for his work for Museum Bredius, an award given to people who made an exceptional contribution to society.
Of the original Bredius Society founders, John Hoogsteder is the only remaining board member still running the museum.
The complete board is now composed of:
Prof. dr. P. Schnabel
Dr. J.A. Brandenbarg
Drs. Ch. Dumas
Drs. W.J. Hoogsteder
Jhr. drs. M. van Nispen tot Pannerden
Mr. F.Ch.M. Tilman
Mr. A.H. Vermeulen
For Tussen Kunst en Kitsch Exclusief the AVRO recorded a video with John Hoogsteder about the original sketchbook by Jan van Goyen from the collection of Museum Bredius.
A history of Museum Bredius
Relying on his taste
Abraham Bredius (1855-1946) was born with a silver spoon and was able to devote himself to the pleasure of collecting paintings and discovering art. More importantly, he proved to be a collector of passion and tenacity. He travelled far and wide to find Dutch art, relying on his taste and innate discernment to assess the paintings he found. He spent many hours in neglected, damp and draughty archives, setting the tone for the historiography of Dutch art. His own private collection was housed in his home on Prinsegracht in The Hague. John Hoogsteder: “There wasn’t much to do during the war and I often went with my father to see Bredius’s private collection. I knew those pictures – some two hundred of them – like the back of my hand, so to speak. That collection and his taste inspired me to give my own gallery its specific profile. Bredius bought atypical paintings by seventeenth-century masters. A still life by the landscapist Ruysdael, a landscape by the marine painter Van Wieringen – that is what makes his collection so unique. It was the Bredius collection that taught me to recognise the hallmarks of unknown masters, where they applied a fine, coarse or light touch to their paintings or drawings.”
Art historian Marjolein de Boer has researched Bredius’s directorship at the Mauritshuis and explains that he combed through archives looking for painters from the Golden Age at a time when art history was not even recognised as a subject in the Netherlands. “With his passion and detective skills Bredius did more than anyone for the emancipation and development of art history in the Netherlands.”
Bredius’s dogged pioneering work laid the foundation for modern art history. Marjolein de Boer paints a picture of the trying circumstances in which Bredius laboured. “In a way, Bredius took an extremely methodical approach by researching provincial and urban archives, which though accessible had been virtually unexplored. He tackled the work with extreme patience and found huge quantities of material, studying paleography to be able to read the manuscripts. Yet what he really relied on was ‘his eye’. Even with all the modern means available today, art history still requires a discerning eye.”
Bredius, the father of Dutch art history, was a pioneer in his field. As Marjolein de Boer says, “He often travelled to places other art lovers had never heard of. For instance he visited French provincial art museums. While in London and Paris, he saw the famous works that everyone knew, he also went to Poland which was completely off the beaten track and discovered the Polish Rider, which he immediately recognised as a work by Rembrandt, although this attribution has now been questioned. He was always on the lookout for minor artists, occasionally making some wonderful discoveries, while also finding painters of no particular interest in the archives. He always placed great importance on signatures. Yet he also made discoveries that make you wonder how he could possibly have known, as when he established that the Allegory of the New Testament was not by Netscher, but a late work by Vermeer. He recognised it by ‘the blue flecks in the white’. He knew that Vermeer was supposed to have painted a picture with that title, nonetheless that simple deduction is quite incredible.” She adds with some awe, “As a celebrated Dutchman he acquired an almost mystical status. With his flamboyant personality, his money and his feel for public relations, he was often in the news. He brought art to ordinary people long before Pierre Jansen. And his door was always open: every Sunday people could ask his opinion about a painting.”
In 1922, when Bredius settled in Monaco, he sold his house on Prinsegracht to the city of The Hague. After his death in 1946, his collection went to the municipality and the pictures that were on loan to the Mauritshuis and Rijksmuseum were bequeathed to those museums. After the Second World War the area around Prinsegracht fell into decay and in 1985, when the city cut its budget, the museum was closed. The collection was stored in the Gemeentemuseum basement. Yet the embers still burned. A Bredius Society was set up – in which John Hoogsteder is still one of the leading lights – determined to find a suitable location for the collection. In an act of philanthropy, an oil company bought Lange Vijverberg 14 and rented it out for one guilder a year. In late 1990, the Bredius Museum reopened in its eighteenth-century mansion, designed by the architect Pieter de Swart, with a quintessentially Hague view of Hofvijver and Binnenhof.
Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder’s premises are now next door to the museum. John Hoogsteder: “It’s like my baby; I’m there nearly every day, and it’s not just the pictures that make it worth visiting. There’s also an impressive collection of antique furniture, and magnificent porcelain and silverware. Just imagine, a nineteenth-century patron of the arts who gives that all away. A training ground for anyone wishing to collect at the same level as Bredius. Bredius did indeed bequeath his most important pictures to museums, but he kept a Rembrandt and three paintings by Jan Steen for himself. The Bredius Museum mainly houses little known seventeenth-century painters whose work is still affordable. The best are truly exceptional. Pictures of the quality of those in the Bredius Museum still come on the market. As we’ll show this year in our gallery.”
Raising the level
The Bredius Society and its small team have as their principal task to maintain and improve the state of the museum. Whether it is John Hoogsteder, Anthony Burgmans (chairman), or Herman Schwartz (administrator, curator and organiser), what comes across is their commitment to raising the level of the museum. Schwartz came to the museum six years ago and is extremely knowledgeable about its art, but he also feels responsible for the upkeep, the security and even the coffee served to visitors. “When I arrived as curator, I knew absolutely nothing. But if you want, you can gather a great deal of information by doing your homework and picking up things from guided tours. I don’t pretend to be an art historian, but I like to be well-informed about the subject. You can acquire the information as you go along: cataloguing the collection, looking things up. Computers are my real hobby and together with a colleague we’ve designed a website for the museum. It has the entire collection on it. Some of the photographs were difficult to take as there wasn’t much room. But now it’s looking really good.”
Mayor of The Hague Jozias van Aartsen together with John Hoogsteder, who is appointed officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau for his work for Museum Bredius.