Daring Patronage  20 November 2009

From Chagall to Mondrian

14 February to 16 May 2010

From 14 February 2010, the Jewish Historical Museum will examine the lives and collections of three Jewish patrons of the arts between 1885 and 1940: Andries van Wezel, Willem Wolff Beffie, and Salomon Slijper. With great foresight, they collected the work of artists who were then unknown but later became world-famous: Mondrian, Chagall, Breitner, Isaac Israels, and many others. For the first time ever, the exhibition Daring Patronage: From Chagall to Mondrian will present a reconstruction of their surprising collections.

In a time when most collectors played it safe and invested in artists with established reputations, Van Wezel (1856-1921), Beffie (1880-1950), and Slijper (1884-1971) had the guts and the vision to offer their support to relative unknowns. The three men were more than just art lovers; they befriended and encouraged many artists and provided some with vital financial support, often by purchasing their work.

For instance, Van Wezel-whose primary interest was in Amsterdam Impressionists such as Breitner and Isaac Israels-was a true benefactor to Eduard Karsen and Willem Witsen. The diamond dealer Beffie, who assembled a world-class collection that included work by Chagall, Kandinsky, Jawlensky, Klee, Gestel en Sluijters, made it possible for the French artist Le Fauconnier to continue working in the Netherlands during the First World War. And Slijper supported his good friend Mondrian by purchasing his work from the very start of his career.

Van Wezel made certain that his collection would remain intact by leaving it to the Rijksmuseum. Slijper's large collection also remained in the Netherlands, after he bequeathed it to the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. Beffie's collection, however, was dispersed. Documents in private hands provided the information necessary to reconstruct his collection and trace these major works to prominent museums around the world, which generously made them available for this exhibition.

In preparation for this event, a team of experts is investigating the role of art in Amsterdam's wealthy Jewish middle-class between 1885 and 1940. The results of this study (the first of its kind) will be presented in a lavishly illustrated catalogue. Along with this catalogue, an introductory film will help to bring this many-faceted exhibition to life.

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