The Eternal Eye From Rembrandt to Picasso

Masterpieces from the Collection of Jan Krugier and Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski

20 July – 7 October 2007

Collections visiting the Kunsthalle Munich

With some 250 drawings, paintings and sculptures, the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung presented the hitherto largest selection from the unique collection of Jan Krugier and Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski. Thus continuing a loose series of exhibitions at the Kunsthalle, that featured private collectors and their very individual approaches towards art and art history. Initiated in 2004, the modernist treasures collected by Karl-Ernst Osthaus, founder of the Museum Folkwang in Essen, were shown in Munich. And after Henri Nannen and his Kunsthalle in Emden earlier in 2007,  the Geneva based Mr. and Mrs. Krugier presented their private collection. Over the course of 40 years they have acquired a group of masterpieces by artists like Bonnard, Carracci, Cézanne, Delacroix, Friedrich, Géricault, Goya, Klee, de Kooning, Manet, Matisse, Parmigianino, Picasso, Rembrandt, Turner, Watteau and many others.

An intime dialogue of drawings

Fascinated by the mostly subdued authority of drawings, Jan Krugier and his wife, the artist and princess of Polish nobility, Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, have gathered a very personal art collection. Point of departure was the acquisition of a drawing by Seurat in 1968. Drawing, with its power of line that creates in mostly monochrome gradations a modeling of light and shadow, is for every artist, whether painter or sculptor, an essential technique. In this intimate medium they have often produced their greatest creations. Yet besides the works on paper, first-rate paintings and sculptures, as well as artworks from non-European cultures, round off this world class collection, already well known and esteemed in professional circles. With great knowledge and an unwavering eye, Jan Krugier and his wife have created a collector’s cabinet that ignores geographic and chronological boundaries, while revealing relationships and connections. This dialogue also lays bare the necessity of art for mankind, because collecting art enables Jan Krugier to deal with the nightmares of his life. Art gives him the possibility to make peace with those humans whose darkest behavior he had to experience early on in his life. Born in 1928 near Warsaw, the then 17 year old is the only one of his Jewish family to have survived the concentration camp. Raised by a Swiss friend of the family, he then lived in Zurich. His desire to become an artist eventually resulted in meeting Alberto Giacometti, who became a close friend and role model. They moved to Paris in 1947, and Jan Krugier eventually abandoned his artistic career in favor of a counseling role for artists. To this day he runs a Geneva art gallery of worldwide fame.

Collecting as a humanistic education

The Krugier’s symbiotic artistic understanding has enabled them to form a collection of both historic depth and width, reaching from Jacopo Bellini and Cosmè Tura upto Edward Hopper and Robert Rauschenberg. Yet, the ensemble is no mere haphazard gathering of masterpieces, even though it contains many of them. The dialogue among works of art from various epochs not only defines the artistic sensibilities of both collectors, it also signifies the essence of the collection itself. The understanding of artistic kinship among war atrocities as depicted by Goya, and a fragmented body as shown by Bacon, stems from the fact that bestiality and horror are fundamental and intrinsic elements in the history of humanity. On the other hand, art also provides the saving grace and power of beauty, as defined in the classicism of an artist like Ingres, which was again reinvented by Picasso. Similarly, it is not merely the exterior or formal common traits that lead Jan Krugier and Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski to view European sculpture with the same eye as an Egyptian or African work. The collection Krugier-Poniatowski, however, does more than only weave connections between the Renaissance and Modernism, or between Rembrandt and Picasso. The collection is at once a symbol and expression of the very humanism that since the age of enlightenment has encouraged the collecting of the greatest artworks in order to stimulate the mind, the senses and the heart.

An extensive catalogue was published with Hirmer Verlag, containing color reproductions and extensive descriptions of all works on display. Arranged in chronological order, this 500-page volume also provides brief artist’s biographies.