WINTERSWIJK – On 21 May this year, it is ten years since the museum Villa Mondriaan aan de Zonnebrink was officially opened by Princess Beatrix. The museum includes works by the young painter Mondrian, who lived in the villa with his family.
By Lineke Voltman
Together with director Jana Roovers, we look back on the past ten years and discuss the plans for the coming years.
The badly neglected villa was in danger of being demolished in 1982. Jan and Elisabeth Nijhuis prevented this by buying and renovating it and turning it into a gallery. Elisabeth’s wish to turn it into a museum dedicated to Mondrian came true when Anjo Joldersma bought the villa with the two adjacent buildings and had it thoroughly transformed into Villa Mondrian. The first director was Wim van Krimpen, former director of the Kunstmuseum Den Haag and Kunsthal in Rotterdam. Villa Mondrian still has a unique collaboration with the Art Museum and can count on a large number of loans from the largest and most important Mondrian collection in the world every year.
Roovers: “In the permanent exhibition of ‘young’ Mondrians, a few more have been added over the years, such as ‘Farmhouse Interior with Fireplace in the Achterhoek’ and ‘Three Bales of Hay in a Field’. We will soon borrow another Mondrian entitled ‘ Still Life’, also from his early period. This work was discovered in the TV program ‘Between Art and Kitsch’ in 2019 and will be exhibited with us from the first weekend of March, also Piet Mondrian’s birthday weekend. Besides Mondriaan, we are also aware on contemporary artists who have an agreement with Mondrian, which can be the place of birth, but also the way of working, for example from figuration to abstraction, so the artist’s artistic development. We also exhibit objects by contemporary artists who are inspired by Mondrian’s work.” In addition, we are exhibiting Mondriaan’s teachers such as works by Simon Maris in 2020 and his contemporaries, an example of which is the exhibition on Amsterdam de Joffers, which can be seen until April 16.”
Roovers: “We have seen an increase in the number of visitors in recent years, we have passed 10,000 per year and in particular ‘From Mondriaan to Dutch Design Route’, which was organized in 2017 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Dutch Art Movement ‘De Stijl’ has attracted many visitors. We had to close during corona, but despite these crisis years, we are now back to pre-corona levels, and if it’s up to me, we will continue the upward trend. We have been registered in the Museum Register since 2019, which means that we can also accept museum card holders from 2019.”
“I think this anniversary is a good time to ask critical questions. Do we continue this way or do we need to make changes? I have ideas about that,” says Roovers. “On my list is, for example, a renovation of the museum , with which we create more space for the range of art we have. In addition, I want to adjust the way the artworks are presented. The context in which you show the works is important, we could be a little more playful about that, so that the experience for the public gets more depth. We will give a taste of that at the next exhibition.”
“The tenth anniversary will be celebrated throughout the month of May,” says Roovers. “A few volunteers have enthusiastically delved into the past and mapped everything. So there is a lot of information that we can use in the future and around which we will create a fine program to draw attention to what we do, what we stand for and why Villa Mondriaan is located in Winterswijk. We start the first weekend with the opening of a new exhibition ‘the Mondrian family’ with works by three Mondrians: Piet, uncle Frits and father Piet. In addition, visitors can be present during the restoration of a number of works in the room, where they can follow the cleaning process. There are many other activities during the month. On the weekend of May 21, we will have a big reunion with all (junior) directors, volunteers and our partners from the past ten years. We want to involve the whole of Winterswijk in our celebration, partly by being visually present in the village with, for example, flags.”
Cooperation with Het Museum association renewed
Since its establishment in 2013, Villa Mondriaan Museum has housed an extensive Mondrian collection, all of which has been on loan for ten years by the Museums Association. Roovers: “Now that the contract has expired, the collaboration has been renewed. This ensures that the location of the Mondrians has a place in the Villa Mondriaan and it also ensures that we can continue to show these works to our visitors. In return, the Museums Association has given us a place for our depot, which we are very happy about.”
The museum association owns two works by the world-famous Piet Mondriaan, nine works by his father Piet Mondriaan sr. and ten works by Frits Mondriaan. These include the works ‘Your word is the truth’, the only painting on which father and son Mondrian actively collaborated. Originally, the painting hung in the Wilhelmina school on the spot where Villa Mondriaan is located today. The charcoal drawing ‘Jacobskerk’ and ‘Boerenvrouw met Koe’, which are so important to Winterswijk, are also part of the collection.
Piet Mondrian Jacobskerk with wood ca 1898-1899. The collection association Het Museum Winterswijk