The museum was set up without any subsidy at all by the Dutch realistic painter Rob Møhlmann, together with his wife and muse Laura (1949-2010). The museum strives to provide contemporary realistic and figurative art with a recognizable platform.
Although it set off in 1995 from scratch, the museum quickly developed into a nationally noted and highly appreciated artistic hotspot, not in the least because of its informal setting and approach. What makes it unique is that it is a museum of one artist for many artists.
The opening hours of the museum are every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 13.00 – 17.00 p.m., from the first Sunday in April until the last Sunday before Christmas.
The Museum Møhlmann is located in ‘De Muzeheerd’, a listed building in the outskirts of the historic town of Appingedam, at roughly a 15-minute drive from the city Groningen. The building is a is 47 meter long traditional farm (the so-called ‘head-neck-trunk’ type), with an attached secondary barn, and was built between 1840 and 1870. In the ‘head’ and the ‘neck’ the living space is situated, while the ‘truck’ and the additional barn were in 2008 converted into a roughly 11.000 square feet museum and lobby, designed by Rob Møhlmann. The impressive former farmhouse is still party moated and has a stately drive, a parking lot and an intimate garden with statues.
The Museum houses three permanent collections. The most extensive of these is the collection ‘present-day realistic and figurative art’, consisting of over 500 works by 170 renowned contemporary artists.
Besides that, there is a regular collection of roughly 40 works by the painter Rob Møhlmann, as well as his famous Canto Collection, consisting of a series of 124 paintings of a single can of the brand Canto.
Rob Møhlmann (1956)
Rob Møhlmann was born in 1956 in the small town Hillegom and went to secondary school in the city of Haarlem.
Around his 16th birthday the artist in him started to stir, but his parents were dead against that and instead wanted him to become a professional serviceman or a teacher at the very least.
When he was 21, Rob went to Amsterdam to follow a course at the teacher training school D’ Witte Lelie to become an art teacher. However, he only lasted there for six weeks, and left in the company of Laura de Grijs, who he had met there. Within five weeks they were living together and within five months they were happily married (1978) and remained so until her too early demise in 2010.
As a painter
Because realism in painting had been declared artistically dead in the 70’s of the 20th century, Rob by necessity taught himself how to paint. That started towards the end of 1977. His first exhibition followed in 1979 in a well-known gallery in Amsterdam. Hesitantly he had begun as a ‘painter-of-everything’, but he quickly realized that his forte would be ‘the still life’. As of 1982 he concentrated solely on that. With his unorthodox approach he managed to instil a new zest into the dusty image of the stiff life. Thus, he not only painted his well-known Canto Collection, a series of 124 paintings of one and the same can (1982-1993). Moreover, he painted a single stiff life as seen from three or four sides, besides making a series of ‘destroyed canvasses’. In the meantime he discovered and developed an artistic novelty: the ‘still life as seen from perpendicularly above’, which he christened the ‘falcon’s-eye view’. In the mid 90’s his works start to quiet down. They remain slightly ironic, but have at the same time a melancholy undertone, while he strives to unite beauty and decay.
As a writer
Already as a young painter Rob Møhlmann started jotting down his ideas about art and now and then he managed to get an article published. When the museum as a platform for contemporary art started to take shape (1995), he began to regularly write books/catalogues, which often have a light-hearted tone. He also wrote for and about fellow-artists, and books were published on the occasion of (special) exhibitions in the Møhlmann Museum. Apart from the odd (two) poetic publications, Rob up to now wrote and managed the publication of over forty books for the museum.
As a museum man
Art, beauty and craftsmanship have always had a great impact on Rob Møhlmann and have, as such, determined his life. As an adolescent he was forever buried in art books, which he paid for by his job as a delivery boy. Art is his ‘raison d’être’—as an artist, a writer, but also as a collector, as a curator, in short: as a museum man. Apart from creating beauty, there is also a great longing to collect in order to preserve and hand on. Out of that love the museum came into existence.
Laura Møhlmann-de Grijs (1949-2010)
Laura was born an only child in Amsterdam at the very end of 1949. She didn’t receive a lot of love in her childhood. She taught herself to play the guitar; she taught Harry Sacksioni (1950), who would later become a famous guitar player, to strum the guitar, while he in his turn taught her a couple of classical chords.
She was at Schiphol airport when The Beatles arrived in Holland (1964), saw the (in)famous provo ‘provo-happenings’ on the Spui square in Amsterdam, was chased by the police in the 1965 riots and experienced a single performance as a budding folk singer, only to find out that she didn’t feel at home on stage.
She married at 18 and quickly got two baby daughters. A few years after that she divorced and from then on raised her children single-handedly.
In 1977 Laura and Rob met. She not only became his wife, but also his muse. Not as a model, but as human being. She was the first to spot his talent and she became their breadwinner in order to give him a chance as a painter. She was strong, but had a frail health. Rob’s ambition and hidden talents as an amateur builder made it possible for them to move to increasingly bigger houses. Thus they moved from Amsterdam to Hoorn (1988) and from there to Venhuizen (1990), and finally to Appingedam (2006). In 1995 health problems forced Laura to quit working, which coincided with the opening of the new exhibition space, which also meant that the sale of Rob’s paintings started to pick up. Shortly after, the exhibition space started being used by fellow artists as well. As a hostess, Laura was the life and soul of the museum, welcoming both artists and visitors. Roughly in 2002 she was stuck by multiple sclerosis, which forced her to walk with a stick. However, her optimism remained invincible. In 2009 she was diagnosed with acute leukemia which was the beginning of an agonising ordeal. On the 20th of September 2010 Laura’s body gave up and she vanished into the blue sky.
Text: Museum Møhlmann
Translation: Rob Peters
NIHIL EST QUAD ESSE VIDETUR
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