One day in November 1994, I was reading an article in the International Herald Tribune about an upcoming auction of Dutch old masters taking place in New York; the paintings belonged to the New-York Historical Society. As I read I thought: Wow, you can still buy Dutch old master paintings? The idea intrigued me.
I was naive and had never considered the notion that one could still buy old masters. And if some topic piques my interest, I want to find out as much as I can about it. How a simple newspaper article can change one’s life.
So I called an old acquaintance in Amsterdam and asked: “what is this auction all about? Is this something interesting?” – He answered: “I don’t think there is anything terribly exciting as far as paintings,’ he said, ‘but I’m planning on going to the auction”. “Okay, well, if you see something interesting, let me know?’ Then I added, ‘By the way, I’ll be in Amsterdam next month. I’ll stop by your gallery. Let’s have a cup of coﬀee, and you can tell me about this stuﬀ.”
As promised we met at his art gallery where he led me around, pointing out the various 17th-century paintings for sale – from landscapes to portraits, still lifes to biblical scenes. That was when I began to focus on the concept that there was a market for these paintings, and that I could be a buyer.
During that visit, I was shown a small oil sketch of a bearded man by the Dutch painter Govert Flinck. “This original piece was done by a pupil of Rembrandt” the dealer explained to me as he showed me the entry of the work in the book “Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler” by Werner Sumowski. For a novice like me, that appeared to be a good sign: ‘Wow, this is 350 years old. It’s by one of the great masters. And it’s listed in this book! I was convinced, and I bought the painting.
Making such an impulsive purchase was extremely uncharacteristic of me. I had never bought original artwork in my life, only some cheap reproductions of colorful modern art (by Karel Appel ) to hang in my apartment as a student. Yet there I was, buying the little sketch – and paying real money for it. I took the painting home, walked in proudly with my purchase tucked under my arm, and showed it to Ilone.
“What is that?” she said. “It’s an original painting by Govert Flinck, a Rembrandt pupil. What do you think?” I said. “I don’t like it at all”… She had studied art in high school and liked Impressionist works – the grand, bright, and colorful paintings of ower gardens, water lilies, lakes, and lovely landscapes. Here was a small, dark painting on wood of an old man with a beard. And when I told her how much I’d agreed to pay for it, she was stunned and was convinced I’d lost my mind.
For me, however, it was an exciting purchase. I now had in my possession a work of art by a painter who had learned his trade from the great Rembrandt, and who in his own right was considered an important artist! The thought of owning a painting that was created 350 years ago by someone recognized as an old master, a famous name, was wonderful – until I lay down and started stirring in my bed. I couldn’t sleep that night: I had just paid a lot of money for a little piece of wood with some paint on it. That was how I felt then…
In retrospect, that decision was sort of a watershed. In a way, that first purchase was the biggest step I would take toward collecting.
The Kremer Collection is a growing, living creation; literally a ‘piece of art’ that continues to develop since the aforementioned first purchase of George Kremer in 1994. Acquisitions are still made on a regular basis, after which the paintings undergo extensive research and sometimes restoration. They are then added to the official collection, which we continue to share via an active external loans program. We very much like to share our love and passion for these paintings and show the public why we believe these works are exciting, beautiful art that played an essential role in the development of western art. All the great masters of Realism and Impressionism and all who came after them were influenced by the Dutch and Flemish masters.
The collection contains masterpieces by great masters such as Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch, Frans Hals, Jan Lievens, Rembrandt, Michael Sweerts & Gerrit van Honthorst, It also includes very interesting works by lesser known masters who deserve a larger audience such as Adriaen Hanneman, Abraham Bloemaert, Abraham Janssens, Theodoor Rombouts, Jan Baptist Weenix, Emanuel de Witte, Ludolf Backhuizen and many more.