Willy Auping jr.’s job application is not entirely plain sailing. The procedure ultimately takes almost a year before he is hired as assistant secretary of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller. Auping’s letters mainly demonstrate his perseverance and great appreciation for the collection.
On 16 February 1937, Helene places an advertisement in De Maasbode newspaper for an ‘Assistant-Secretary, male or female’ for her proposed museum. Willy Auping jr., son of the Dutch bed manufacturer from Deventer, is one of the applicants and is invited to St. Hubertus to introduce himself to Helene. 3 weeks later she informs him that she has yet to make a decision. Nevertheless, Auping must have made a good impression on her, as she sends him a copy of her book Considerations about issues in the development of modern painting.
Application correspondence between Willy Auping and Helene Kröller-Müller, 1937
To show his gratitude for this generous act, Auping writes a reply in which he addresses the content of Helene’s Considerations in depth. ‘Constantly drawing comparisons, intensely empathizing with the works, characters and historical conditions of the artists. I understood this, among other things, from your book, Esteemed Madam, this was apparent from your lectures and this is how it should be, as I gathered from our interview, in the proposed museum.’ He writes three drafts before sending the letter.
Auping’s notepad with art observations
Then, on 23 April 1937, there follows a message that the position cannot be filled yet, as the construction of the museum has been postponed. The rejection deeply affects Auping, as is apparent in the letter from Victor Esser, a pastor friend whom he has asked for advice: ‘Yes, it seems to me that you […] could share something of your feelings with Mrs Kröller-Müller […]. That you had so hoped for this position and still hope for it. That you are so candid to even offer her your services’. On 7 May, Auping informs Helene that he is willing to work for her ‘without obligations’ if necessary: ‘This would also allow you to judge my suitability and above all my dedication’. His initiative pays off, as he is invited for a second interview on 9 July 1937. At Helene’s request, he then writes an essay on his experience of her Modern Art collection.
Auping’s essay, for his application
And once again
On 7 September, Auping visits Helene on the Veluwe for a third time. This time they inspect the construction work for the transitional museum together. There is no definite answer about a job yet, but she lets him know that he ‘was the only person from all the applicants with whom she remained in contact’. Then Auping also receives good news from Father Esser. He has heard through a friend of former Minister Marchant that Helene finds him ‘the man she was looking for’.
The redeeming phone call
2 months later, Auping is called by an employee of De Hoge Veluwe National Park. He is asked if, when he visits the park, he would first report to Mrs Kröller-Müller. Auping must have expected Helene to give him her answer personally. 3 days later he travels to the Veluwe in vain: ‘Unfortunately, Mrs Kröller-Müller was unable to meet me due to illness’. That same day he sends Helene his best wishes for a speedy recovery. On 20 December, she finally informs him by telephone that he can begin work as Assistant Secretary of Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller on 3 January 1938, almost a year after his application.