The wealth of the epochs and genres as well as the museum’s own eventful history offer multifaceted scholarly and educational possibilities. These include conservational work as well as art historical projects dedicated specifically to groups of works in the collection as well as research into the provenance of the museum’s holdings.
Dr. Sylvia Martin
The Didactic and Model Collection of the Kunstmuseen Krefeld was established around 1900 by the first director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum. The collection comprises some 250 collection cases and approximately 4,000 media objects, i.e. reproductions from the fields of painting, sculpture, architecture and the arts and crafts. Each reproduction is mounted onto cardboard and arranged in chronological, art-historical order. The corresponding image database spans the age of antiquity to the end of the 19th century and possesses an almost encyclopedic quality. The Didactic and Model Collection was created at the height of this visual presentation format which developed within the context of museums of the arts and crafts. It includes media from numerous sources (publishing houses, booksellers, photo studios) and thus reflects the multifaceted media in circulation at the turn of the century.
Photographic reproductions by Fratelli Alinari, James Anderson, Giacomo Brogi and Giorgio Sommer, for example, are presented alongside handmade samples sheets which served as templates for book endpapers. The Didactic and Model Collection was a central feature of the educational programme to which the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum pledged to promote when it was founded in 1897 as a museum of the arts and crafts. The video artist Marcel Odenbach is invited to artistically examine the Didactic and Model Collection in relation to Collection Satellite #6. Visitors can view the exhibition on the first floor of the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum from 12 November 2020 to 16 May 2021. The scientific investigation of this forgotten cultural asset focuses on the function and use of the Didactic and Model Collection. The collection is presented in the context of the museum’s original concept and evaluated in terms of its media-reflexive potential. The curators also address further aspects, such as the position former director Deneken took with respect to the relatively modern medium of photography and the role it played in the exhibition and museum programme of that era. The results of the investigation will be incorporated into the Collection Satellite publication series.
The Sparda-Bank West Foundation is a partner of the Collection Satellites series.
In 2019, the Kunstmuseen Krefeld acquired a convolute comprising 100 works on paper by the Russian-French artist Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979). The study of this collection is being made possible thanks to an assistant curatorship fund, supported by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. It will be conducted in the course of a two-year research project in the period 2020-2022.
Sonia Delaunay created the 100 works of different formats and techniques in the course of her intensive engagement with textile print and fashion design between the 1920s and 1940s. As part of a total of 1244 drawings from Delaunay’s Paris workshop, they were acquired directly from the artist by the Lyon silk industrialist, musician and art collector Robert Perrier (1898-1987).
The Krefeld convolute is characterised by the broad time period in which the works were created, and accordingly a wide variety of imagery and purpose: It comprises for instance designs for Delaunay’s own company “Tissus Delaunay” and her brand “Tissus Simultané” dating from the late 1920s, but also contains experiments in form and colour as well as preliminary studies for commissions by other fabric manufacturers and Perrier himself up to 1942. The group offers a cross-section through her repertoire and showcases different states of her design process. Having never been researched, the drawings will undergo an analysis of their dates of origin, authorship, and will be contextualised with Delaunay’s œuvre. Furthermore, the project aims to draw attention to the artist’s experimental approach to form, colour and optical movement, and evaluate how the drawings reflect a changing balance between the abstract and the figurative. The project will close a significant gap in research of Sonia Delaunay’s engagement with the textile medium in the 1930s and 1940s. It will also highlight Robert Perrier as a collector. The significance of the convolute for the Kunstmuseen Krefeld transcends the seminal importance of Sonia Delaunay as a central figure of modern art. It ties back to the concept of the original collection of the museum, which in 1897 was created to house both the visual and the applied arts – no less in a city internationally known as a centre of artistic textile design and Lyon’s rival in the industrial production of silk.
The Kunstmuseen Krefeld conducted an investigation of its paintings for the first time as part of a one-year, systematic provenance research project funded by the German Lost Art Foundation. In keeping with the Washington Principles of 1998, the project aimed to identify works in the collection which may have been confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution.
Project researchers investigated the provenance of paintings acquired between 1946 and 1970. During this period a number of significant works of classical modernism found their way into the collection, most of which were purchased through the German art market. The Kaiser Wilhelm Museum had begun collecting modernist works in the 1920s, but by 1942 most of them had been confiscated by the National Socialists as part of their campaign against “Degenerate Art”.
Paul Wember, who was appointed director of the museum in 1947, worked to fill the gaps in its classical modernist holdings and purchased paintings and graphic works produced prior to World War II which often lacked provenance data. Consequently, at the beginning of the project, researchers found that numerous pieces acquired between 1946 and 1970 had uncertain provenance. A total of 121 paintings were examined. Researchers determined without a doubt that almost half of these had an unsuspicious provenance. For 69 works, however, gaps were found in their chain of provenance. These gaps were predominantly due to their relatively unknown artists, about whom little information exists which could close these gaps. None of the investigated works were classified as suspected Nazi-confiscated art. The only exception was the painting “Wirtshaus” by Heinrich Campendonk, which had most likely belonged to the Jewish manufacturer Alfred Hess. At closer inspection, researchers were unable to fill the gaps in the still broken chain of provenance. The final conclusions of the investigation are pending.
Starting in June 2020, the new collection presentation at the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum will feature a room devoted solely to provenance research. Based on a selection of works which the project investigated, visitors will be introduced to the methods, aims, results and problems related to provenance research.
Dr. Katja Terlau
Dr. Vanessa-Maria Voigt
The City of Krefeld owns four paintings by the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian (1872–1944): Tableau No. VII, Tableau No. X, Tableau No. XI (all 1925), and Composition IV (1926). They belong to the collection of the Kunstmuseen Krefeld. Descendants of the Mondrian heir Harry Holtzman have demanded the return of the artworks.
In order to clarify whether this claim is legally justified, the City of Krefeld commissioned the two provenance researchers Dr. Katja Terlau and Dr. Vanessa-Maria Voigt to examine the provenance of the paintings.
Between June 2018 and May 2019, the researchers traced the history of the paintings since the 1920s, evaluated archive material, and spoke with experts both in Germany and abroad. In the process, they did not come across any indications that the works could be unlawfully in the possession of the City of Krefeld.
The summary of the researchers' dossier explains the findings in detail.