THE HAGUE.- Kunstmuseum Den Haag
has owned a sizeable collection of work by Anton Heyboer (1924 2005) since the 1960s. The collection has grown over the years, and recent additions have included a bequest and a donation from a private collection. Following our major retrospective of his work five years ago, Kunstmuseum Den Haag is now showing the newly acquired works that have further enriched our collection in a small presentation in our Berlage Room entitled Anton Heyboer Significant Space.
In the mid-1960s Hans Locher, who was then head of the print collection and later became museum director, visited Heyboer regularly to discuss his work, and bought a large number of etchings for the museum. Unlike others in the art world, he managed to maintain a long-lasting connection with Heyboer, allowing him to study his process and his work in depth, and interpret his highly symbolic visual idiom. In 1967 Locher organised the first museum retrospective of Heyboers graphic work, and exactly fifty years later, in 2017, the museum staged another major retrospective, featuring his work up to the end of the 1970s. Five years on, we are following this up with the intimate presentation Anton Heyboer Significant Space.
The bequest from Olaf van Herpen comprises several paintings and etchings from Heyboers early career. The multi-part Stone and Blood, made in 1973, was donated to the museum from a private collection. In the early 1960s, Heyboer starting producing multi-sheet series of etchings. These early series were based on his system a visual idiom full of symbols that he developed into his own language. By the early 1970s, his growing mastery of the system gave him a greater sense of freedom. From then on, he dispensed with meticulous preparatory studies and the series became far more spontaneous. This greatly increased the scope of the multi-sheet series (in which Heyboer used matchsticks to apply the etching ink to the paper). Stone and Blood is one of the finest examples of this. Heyboer even went so far as to leave whole sheets entirely blank, so opening up his system. This significant space links Heyboer to other international artists who likewise created their own personal systems or universes. Examples in Heyboers own generation include Cy Twombly (1928-2011) and Joseph Beuys (1921-1986).
Heyboer is regarded as the Netherlands most important folk artist, but his fame extended far beyond his countrys borders. In the 1960s and 70s he was a celebrated international artist whose work was bought by MoMA in New York and shown at Documenta in Kassel. Major exhibitions were devoted to his work, and in 1975 LACMA in Los Angeles showcased him alongside David Hockney and Lucian Freud as one of the most important European painters of the time. Heyboer turned his back on the art world that same year.