The collection of the Kröller-Müller Museum is famed worldwide for its paintings by great masters such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Piet Mondriaan and Georges Seurat. But the museum collection is even richer. The exhibition Drawn from life presents a selection from the more than 4,500 drawings, pastels, watercolours and prints from the 1850-1950 period, many of which are seldom on show. This is a unique presentation of around 120 very different works on paper, which provide an insight in life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. 

A slice of life

The works on paper by artists such as Jozef Israëls, George Breitner, Bart van der Leck, Georges Seurat, Odilon Redon and Paul Signac show everyday life. People engaged in their daily activities, such as the labouring fishermen of Jan Toorop or the female dancers of Marius Bauer and Pablo Picasso, or at quieter moments, such as the contemplative women of Suze Robertson and Charley Toorop. Street life and nightlife are favourite themes in the watercolours and charcoal drawings of Isaac Israels, Leo Gestel and Alexander Bogomazov.

From spontaneous expression to artwork

From quick doodles in sketchbooks after fleeting encounters to endless studies of the same subject, from the first sketches for later paintings, sculptures or prints to detailed scenes on paper – all these facets of drawing can be found in Drawn from life. Most of the works on exhibition were collected by Helene Kröller-Müller, her adviser H.P. Bremmer and family friend Sam van Deventer.

In her publication Beschouwingen (Reflections), Helene writes about the acquisition of a drawing by  Picasso in 1915:

‘The female dancer may seem just a doodle, a coloured sketch, and even though I would prefer to show one of his unique early works, this spontaneous expression allows us to see what direction Picasso was thinking of and that he was also using impressionism as a frame of reference.’

Images: Piet Mondriaan, Een lelietak (Gladiolus), circa 1906 - 1907 / Willem Witsen, Waterloo-bridge bij avond (Waterloo-bridge at night), circa 1890 / Isaac Israels, Twee dansende vrouwen, Amsterdam (Two dancing women, Amsterdam), 1892 - 1893 / Isaac Israels, Twee vrouwen, Londen (Two women, London), 1934 / Paul Signac, Étude pour 'Au temps d'harmonie' (Study for 'Au temps d'harmonie'), 1893 - 1895 / Julie de Graag, Liggende poes (Lying cat), circa 1917 / Julie de Graag, December (liggende kat) (December (lying cat)), 1917 / Pablo Picasso, Danseuse (Woman dancer), 1901