A Journey Through Time

There must be many people who have never visited the Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede. This is a pity, because after a long period when the museum was closed for renovations, it has now reopened with an exceptionally attractive and original presentation of its collection of art and crafts from the middle ages to the present day.

In 1995 and 1996 the Rijksmuseum Twenthe was subjected to a complete conversion. The courtyard was given a roof, new exhibition areas were laid out and an excellent restaurant was also installed. Many changes took place in the museum’s aims as well. The former regional museum focussed mainly on local history; in its place we have a genuine museum of art. The treasures that lay forgotten in the stockrooms have been moved upstairs, while loans from various bodies fill the walls. All the departments from old art to more modern work have been renovated and organized in a different fashion.

We thought the new arrangement of the art works was particularly successful. No designer has been busy here imposing his personal style at the expense of the art works. In almost all the rooms items of furniture and art objects have been placed among paintings from the same period. The arrangement displays love and understanding of the works shown.

Medieval wood carvings, for instance, have been placed together with paintings, miniatures and religious objects in rooms painted an atmospheric blue. You suddenly notice that the faces on the statues have the same pointed noses and deep eye-sockets as you find in a portrait by Holbein. Their meditative gaze invites one to silence and repentance. Coloured beams of light enter the room discreetly through old stained-glass windows and playfully highlighting the warm oak of the statues. The Middle Ages have been brought to life here.

There are two truly remarkable small portraits by Joos van Cleve with authentic frames painted to form part of the paintings. The frames work in fact like a window: the man has taken up position behind it placing his pen against the frame. Five centuries have passed and Van Cleve still manages to create the impression that this medieval couple are palpably present. It is a masterly art work that continues to charm us with its wonderful treatment of materials and delightful colours.

The seventeenth-century rooms are painted pale yellow and anthracite and contain a small but exquisite cross-section of the art of the Golden Age. As in the Prinsenhof in Delft, the daring step has been taken here of hanging works above each other. This makes the paintings look less imposing – less like museum objects in fact – and more in keeping with their original surroundings: the Dutch home. Winter scenes are well represented with work by Barent Avercamp, Jan van de Capelle and Jan van Goyen; while among the still lifes are a fruit piece by Balthasar van der Ast and an exceptionally fine work by Van Hulsdonck and another by Osias Beert. Two masterly portraits by Verspronck catch the eye: they would not be out of place next to a Rembrandt.

Nineteenth-century art is given a purple background and the paintings of the Romantic school, many of which have gilt frames, are ideally displayed in this setting. There is a good selection of works from the Hague School. The fascinating relation of this school with that of Barbizon is clear to see. Finally in the Old Master section we now find some French Impressionists, including Monet and Sisley.

The most interesting part of the collection however is the art of the eighteenth century. The conversion allocated a separate room for the 40 paintings from this period. Verkolje’s Moses found by Pharaoh’s daughter is one of the most important works here. Diagonally opposite is a work by Jacobus Linthorst, Still Life with Flowers next to a Vase that we sold to the museum on the occasion of our last Spring exhibition. It is hung between a superb still life by Georgius Jacobus Johannes van Os and two paintings by Jan Ekels the Older. The art of the eighteenth century that until recently was more or less forgotten is truly worth viewing and studying.

Finally a separate wing is devoted to modern and contemporary art. According to the curator this collection gives a broad overview of art in the twentieth century, particularly that of Holland. We will certainly take her word for it.

    Joos van Cleve

    Portrait of Anthonis van Hilten

    Panel, 40 x 29 cm,
    Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede

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    Joos van Cleve

    Portrait of Agniete van den Rijne

    Panel, 40 x 29 cm.
    Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede

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    Jacobus Linthorst

    Still Life with Flowers beside a Vase

    Canvas, 48 x 39.8 cm,
    Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede

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