It has graced The Hagues Bezuidenhoutseweg since 1966: Hans Arps (1886-1966) four-metre tall sculpture Scrutant lhorizon, made in 1964. Few people know that this was the last stone sculpture Arp worked on before he died. In 1964 Kunstmuseum Den Haag
acquired the plaster version that served as a model for the monumental sculpture. After his death Arps widow Marguerite Arp-Hagenbach asked the museum to have a number of bronze versions cast using the plaster model. The bronze sculptures went straight to private collections. Some fifty years on, one of those bronzes has finally found its way back to the museum. In a true connoisseurs exhibition, Hans Arp The Final Work, from 29 October 2022 to 16 April 2023 at Kunstmuseum Den Haag, will highlight the history of the sculpture and its special relationship with the museum.
Thanks to the diligence of the Municipal Committee for Art Commissions, in 1963 The Hague managed to secure a commitment from one of the most famous modern sculptors of the 20th century, Franco-German artist Hans Arp, to make a monumental sculpture for the city. It was Louis Wijsenbeek (1912-1985), then director of the museum, and adviser to the Committee, who approached Hans Arp about the commission. The artist agreed immediately.
Wijsenbeek and curator of modern art Jos de Gruyter visited Arp and his wife Marguerite Arp-Hagenbach at their summer home in Locarno, Switzerland. Using only descriptions and a few photographs of the proposed site on Bezuidenhoutseweg, Arp started designing a plaster model.
The city council covered a third of the cost of the model, which would be added to the sculpture collection at the Haags Gemeentemuseum (as Kunstmuseum Den Haag was known then). Arp would not usually sell his plaster sculptures, and this one was one of the first to join a museum collection.
The Municipal Committee for Art Commissions approved the design in 1964. Arp spent about a year working on the final sculpture in Egyptian porphyry, which was four times the size of the model. It was eventually installed on Bezuidenhoutseweg on 1 September 1966. Arp did not live to see this moment, as he had died three months earlier in Basel.
On 18 February 1967 the Haags Gemeentemuseum opened a major retrospective of the work of Hans Arp, featuring more than 150 pieces. In the years that followed the museum actively acquired several works by Arp, including Torso (1931), which Marguerite Arp-Hagenbach donated to the museum to mark the 1967 retrospective. In exchange for this generous donation, it was agreed that the museum would cast three bronzes from the plaster model of Scrutant l'horizon: two for Arp-Hagenbachs collection and one for the museum.
The three bronzes were cast in 1970. As promised, two went to Arp-Hagenbach in Locarno and the museum sold the third to Brook Street Gallery in London. It used the proceeds to buy another piece for its Arp collection, Fleur Marteau (1916), from the artists widow. Both Torso and Fleur Marteau will be on display along with the various versions of Scrutant lhorizon in Hans Arp The Final Work.
In August 2021 a fourth version of Scrutant lhorizon turned up the artists copy, also known as Scrutant lhorizon 0/3 when it was offered as a donation to the museum from the estate of deceased Dutch collector Jan Overbeke. Arp never mentioned his artists copies, but research has shown that they were originally intended for his private collection, or for donation to public collections. It was not common for them to be offered for sale.
The circle was complete when the piece was finally donated to the museum in October 2022, after a thorough investigation of its provenance. The bronze version of Scrutant lhorizon is home once more, in the public setting for which it was intended and in the city for which it was made. All publicly accessible versions of Scrutant l'horizon the plaster model, a bronze and the monumental porphyry sculpture are now in The Hague, as Kunstmuseum Den Haag tells the story of Hans Arps final work on the basis of a small selection of his work and poems by the artist.
Hans Arp The Final Work can be regarded as a satellite exhibit to the exhibition of plaster models entitled Die Firma Arp. Formenkosmos und Atelierpraxis on show at the Gerhard-Marcks-Haus in Bremen from 6 November 2022 to 29 January 2023, created in collaboration with Stiftung Hans Arp und Sophie Taeuber-Arp. The exhibition at the Gerhard-Marcks-Haus will show all plaster models by Hans Arp in the foundations collection together for the first time. The exhibition here at Kunstmuseum Den Haag focuses on the story of one particular plaster model.