Dalí in Rotterdam
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A.M. Hammacher (1897-2002)
A.M. (Bram) Hammacher began his career as art critic at the Utrechts Dagbald [Utrecht Daily]. He published countless articles and books, both about individual artists (incl. Van Gogh and Mondriaan) and about movements in modern art. He was particularly interested in the artistic personality of the artist and his motives.In 1947, Hammacher was appointed director of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller in Otterlo. In 1952, he was appointed extraordinary professor in art history at the Technical High School in Delft. He held both positions until the ‘sixties. He wrote his most important books after this period: The Evolution of Modern Sculpture (1969) and Phantoms of the Imagination. Fantasy in Art and Literature from Blake to Dalí (1981).Peter de Ruiter, art historian working at the National University of Groningen, obtained his doctorate with a thesis about the life of A.M. Hammacher and his significance for modern art in the Netherlands. A commercial edition of his thesis has been published. See Peter de Ruiter, A.M. Hammacher. Kunst als levensessentie [Art as the essence of life], Baarn 2000.
Sarah Bernhard is the greatest legend in French theatrical history. She had a Dutch mother, Julie Berhardt and a father of unknown nationality. In order to appear French, she removed the ‘t’ from her name.Sarah Bernhard was most famous for her performance in La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas. In 1912, she played the lead role in the film La Reine Elizabeth, which became a worldwide success and was released in America as Queen Elizabeth. Bernhardt had a relationship with her leading man in this film, the 37 years younger Dutch actor Lou Tellegen.
I greet you...
In French, with his Spanish accent, Dalí says:Je te salueJe t'embrasseJe t'embrasse ta tacheDans l'oreille gaucheQu'est la même de la GalaI greet youI embrace youI kiss your moleIn your left earWhich is the same as Gala's
Coffee and cake
When the exhibition closed, recalls Renilde Hammacher in an e-mail, she received an official invitation from the Rotterdam Shopkeepers’ Association. She was offered coffee and cake and the chairman congratulated her for the exhibition and the Association with the side-effects of the endless queues at the door.Renilde Hammacher: ‘The visitors had to spend hours in the queue and they sought comfort in cups of coffee, rolls, soup or other culinary pleasures. As gratitude for this, for them, favourable turn of events, this friendly and convivial association awarded me a beautiful golden ring with the coat of arms of the Association. I still wear it as a reminder of that far-off, happy past.’
Salvador Dalí met his wife Gala when she was still married to the poet Paul Eluard. The latter would occasionally lend her out to his surrealistic friends, simply because he was so proud of her. Before meeting Dalí, Gala had a three-cornered relationship with Eluard and the painter Max Ernst. This time, however, Eluard lost Gala for good. According to Dalí, Gala prevented him from going mad. ‘Because she has absorbed my madness.’ Gala was Dalí’s muse, and she remained that for more than 50 years, until her death in 1982.
Renilde Hummacher tells of the arrival of the artist in an e-mail:“Dalí was standing in the hall of the Museum, his wife Gala next to him. Both were greeted by the Director (and myself), surrounded by an enormous crowd of spectactors. Suddenly, unexpectedly, a young man (an artist) wormed his way through the crowd to Dalí, knelt before him and kissed him reverently on the hand. An emotional moment! But the Master accepted this exceptional homage with pleasure! There is a photograph of this moment in the archives.”The photo was, as you can see, used in the editing.
Edward James (1907-1984) was born on the West Dean estate in Sussex. He was the youngest of Evelyn Forbes’s five children and her only son. Evelyn Forbes was the illegitimate daughter of the Prince of Wales and a society beauty who, according to her son, didn’t really like children very much. The father of Edward James, William Dodge James, earned fortunes in the wood industry and the American railway, but was always away travelling. From a young age, Edward wanted to be a writer. On his grave stone he only wanted: ‘Edward James poet’. James collected and supported the surrealists in the thirties, especiallt Dali and Magritte. He spent his whole life in a fantasy world, created partly by himself, partly by others. A documentary has been made about his life’s work, the sculpture garden Las Pozas in Xilida, Mexico entitled: Edward James. Builder of Dreams.
In a policy paper dated 17 February 1970, Renilde Hammacher gave a number of arguments for her priority, surrealism. The movement is poorly represented in the Netherlands; there are a number of affordable masterpieces available; surrealism lives on in Pop Art and the new realistic movements and has, furthermore, a basis in the collection of old masters. Renilde Hammacher: “Our museum has among the old masters a figure who was exceptionally attractive for the surrealists: Hieronymus Bosch. His critical, merciless unmasking of hypocritical life in the late middle ages, his sympathy for vagrants, vagabonds, fools, the infatuated, inspired him to works that rose above every reality.”
In the cold winter of 1970-1971, visitors arrived from near and far. They stood shivering outside the museum in long queues, waiting hours for the doors to open. And to finally see what they had come for: the exhibition of Salvador Dalí, with paintings, jewellery and the speech-making gold beating heart. In two months more than 200.000 people visited the museum. The Dutch Polygoon Newsreel made a programme about it.
Renilde Hammacher-van Brande, the very first head curator of modern art at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, organised the successful Dalí exhibition. Renilde has since reached an age that has been classified a state secret, or at least Boijmans secret no.1. She does, however, remember the moment as if it were only yesterday when she sat on the sofa next to the legendary surrealist master. In all modesty Dalí called himself Il Divino - The Divine-One.
Camera, interview & editing: BoogieMen