schilderijen van Odilon Redon, Puvi de Chavannes en Piet MondriaanThe exhibition includes paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Johan Thorn Prikker, Jan Toorop, William Degouve de Nuncques, Odilon Redon, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Jan Sluyters, Charley Toorop and Piet Mondriaan, among others. And sculptures by artists including John Rädecker, Johan Coenraad Altorf.

Embleem op de gevel van het museum en een etiket met het embleem, Henry van de Velde

Helene’s motto: spirit and matter are one

Spiritus et Materia Unum means spirit and matter are one. This emblem on the museum's facade was designed by Belgian artist and architect Henry van de Velde. It is the life motto of Helene Kröller-Müller (1869–1939), one of the Netherlands' most important and forward-thinking art collectors. For many visitors of the Kröller-Müller Museum, the relationship with spirituality and philosophy is not immediately obvious. Nevertheless, it is one of the main foundations upon which the collection is built.

Art as the key to the soul

As a teenager at school in Düsseldorf, Helene was introduced to literature by great German writers and philosophers such as Lessing, Goethe and Schiller. They believed that thinking for oneself was more important than adherence to a religion and strove for freedom and progress throughout society. This way of thinking was a revelation to Helene and led to doubts about her faith.
After a long search for other forms of spirituality and meaning in her life, at the age of 36 Helene finds the key to the realm of the soul in art. Through H.P. Bremmer's art appreciation classes, she becomes captivated by the philosophy of 17th-century Dutch philosopher Spinoza. The essence of Spinoza's teachings, seeking God in all things earthly, forms the basis of her life motto.

Vincent van Gogh, Basket of Lemons and Bottle and Olive Grove

Fascination with Van Gogh

Thanks to Bremer's definition of art as the conveyance of a spiritual experience, Helene also learned to appreciate and understand the work of the then relatively unknown Vincent van Gogh. She became convinced that this artist was ‘one of the great spirits of modern art’ and that his work would usher in a new development in art. Regarding Basket of Lemons and Bottle (May 1881), Helene wrote in March 1909: '"This is what heaven looks like" and the longer I look at the painting the more I see a statement, which has nothing to do with the tangible, [...]'. In addition to Basket of Lemons and Bottle, the exhibition also includes Van Gogh's Olive Grove (July 1889).

A different perspective?

The exhibition also discusses the searching of artists who all sought to depict the invisible and intangible in their own way. Find out whether you can still feel this today when you see these works in the exhibition. And what happens when you view them from a contemporary philosophical perspective.

For this exhibition, the museum is collaborating with philosopher and writer Désanne van Brederode.

Images: Odilon Redon, The Sacred Heart (The Buddha), c. 1906 / Piet Mondriaan, Composition 10 in Black and White, 1915 / Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Mary Magdalene in the Desert (Meditation), 1869/ Henry van de Velde, Emblem, 1937-1938 (placed on the museum's facade) and Label with emblem 'Spiritus et materia unum', 1926-1940 / Vincent van Gogh, Basket of Lemons and Bottle, May 1881 and Olive grove, June 1889