“De wereld zou beter zijn als alle mensen hun eigen ritme verstonden en het in harmonie konden brengen met dat van anderen, bij de muziek die van de hemel komt.”
De wereld een dansfeest, Arthur van Schendel
“The world would be better if everyone understood their own rhythm and in harmony could bring with that of others to the music of heaven.”
The World is a Festival of Dance, Arthur van Schendel *
Ever since my Schubert Iconography was published I continued to find more Schubert images heretofore unknown to me (1). After the article’s publication I donated all my Schubert iconography research files to the City University of New York Research Center for Music Iconography, and sent newly discovered images to the RCMI to add to the research inventory. From time to time I discover interesting Schubert images, often not compelling for the quality of their art but interesting regarding the curious historical circumstances surrounding the artist who created the image.
I have long been an admirer of Vermeer, and in January 2009 I bought Benjamin Binstock’s Vermeer’s Family Secrets. (2) I began to read the author’s discussion of the clever and talented Dutch art forger Han (Henricus Antonius) van Meegeren (1889-1947), best known for his Vermeer forgeries. Like most people interested in art I had heard about this duplicitous artist and his incredible success at fooling the Vermeer experts, but I had never seen any examples of Van Meegeren’s own original artwork signed with his own name. As I read on in Binstock, there on page 59 I saw a 4.5×8 cm reduction of a Van Meegeren watercolor drawing of the famous Dutch pianist Theo van der Pas (1902-1986) with a group of composers. (3) Binstock says:
“Van Meegeren’s portrait of the pianist van der Pas comes closer to Vermeer’s situation in relation to his predecessors and peers (Fig.40). Mozart offers the most obvious parallel for Vermeer, given their brief lives and the delicate perfection of their art, although the relations among Rembrandt, Fabritius and Vermeer correspond to Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Another analogy is provided by the absent figure of Mendelssohn, who rediscovered Bach, reminding us that artists were the first and the greatest historians of art.” (4)
Binstock’s discussion at this point is about Vermeer’s strategies in using the traditions of his artist predecessors. However, citing Mozart for his brief life, likened to that of Vermeer (1632-1675) who died in his early forties, overlooks the simple fact that among the group of seven composers in the portrait Schubert had the shortest life, dying nearly eleven weeks before his thirty-second birthday. The composers’ life years and age at death are, in alphabetical order:
Bach (1685-1750), 65;
Beethoven (1770-1827), 56;
Brahms (1833-1897), 63;
Chopin (1810-1849), 39;
Mozart (1756-1791), 35; Schubert (1797-1828), 31; and
Schumann (1810-1856), 46.
Binstock’s contention about these composers’ brief lives, seeing Mozart as the shortest lived of the seven and comparing that span of years to those of Vermeer’s, is undone by simple arithmetic. Vermeer was forty-three when he died. The composer whose age at death is closest to Vermeer’s was Schumann at age forty-six; while Mozart died younger than either Vermeer or Schumann, Schubert lived the shortest life in this group, Vermeer included.
Van der Pas was highly regarded as a pianist and taught at the Royal Conservatories of Music in Rotterdam and in The Hague where he had studied. Many of his recordings from the 1930s and 1940s are available today in their original formats as well as re-mastered versions on CDs. Some are solo recordings but more often he performed live as a Lieder accompanist and in chamber music ensembles with many artists whose names became more famous than his. He also played regularly with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw under Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) and other leading orchestras and conductors. He performed in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Dutch East Indies. He partnered most notably with cellist Emanuel Feuermann (1902-1942) who consistently asked Van der Pas to tour with him and to record together at home and abroad, which they did most successfully. Van der Pas is still remembered in the Netherlands as one of their most highly respected pianists and piano pedagogues of the twentieth century but without a wide international reputation (although he is better known among piano aficionados). (5) He played the works of all the composers (and recorded some) seen in Van Meegeren’s drawing, including Mendelssohn who is not shown.
In the Van Meegeren drawing Van der Pas, who was especially known as a Chopin interpreter, sits at a piano dressed in evening clothes for his recital. He is shown in profile facing left. With his hands on the keyboard he is gazing upwards but apparently not seeing the ghosts of the great music masters of the past. Starting from left to right stands the bewigged and smiling Mozart, looking at the pianist; a grim Beethoven whose hand is with fingers bent, as if he was about to play, reaching out to Van der Pas; a glorious Bach, staring straight at the viewer and not at the pianist – his head and neck encircled by his wig which glows like a halo; a placid and disinterested Brahms; a distant-looking Schumann; and an austere Chopin who gazes at a faraway point but whose ghostly hand rests on Van der Pas’s shoulder. (6) Schubert is the only other sitting figure, next to the seated Van der Pas. In Van Meegeren’s Teekeningen 1, are four faces drawn with ghost-like visages labeled sculptor, musician, poet and painter. Three of the four full-face portraits have their eyes open. The fourth face – musician – has his eyes closed and in this instance alone resembles the death mask of Beethoven in the Van de Pas portrait; the image of Beethoven’s death mask was widely reproduced after his death. (7)
Of the portrait of Theo van der Pas, one reviewer says: “Ook de portretschilder is aanwezig in een grote tekening van Theo van der Pas aan en vleugel omringd door de uit een droomwereld rijzende figuren van Beethoven, Mozart, Bach,Schumann, Schubert en Chopin.” (The portrait painter is present in a great drawing of Theo van der Pas and a piano surrounded by a dream world of rising figures of Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Schumann, Schubert and Chopin.) (8) Brahms was omitted but, in any event, what is the meaning of the comment? Was it a case of Van Meegeren being seen as putting himself spiritually into the presence of those great composers, the equal of any one of them? Was this evidence of Van Meegeren’s visible yearning to be accepted as equal to such esteemed company, men who lived lives of struggle and conquered early disappointment, who ultimately astounded the world of music? This would be so for all these composers except the young prodigy Mozart whose career as a child performer was nothing short of astonishing. Mozart’s financial woes as an adult became a heavy burden, and the other composers certainly struggled at some points early in their lives to find a way to support themselves and their families. But their greatness was not in the money they earned but in the art they made. There was a place, the portrait painter and the critic seemed to say, for Van Meegeren among such great masters of art just as there is for Van der Pas. There is a curious resemblance seen in various photos of Van Meegeren and Van der Pas at different times of their lives: in the shape of the head, hairline, slicked back hair, long, lean face, and narrow chin. Sixty-six years later, Binstock comments:
“Van Meegeren’s own style is evident in his portrait of the Dutch pianist Theo van der Pas channeling yet also seemingly haunted by the great composers of the Western canon. The scene uncannily suggests Van Meegeren’s own artistic circumstances; since he could not take his place alongside the great masters, he decided to ‘interpret’ them.” (9)
As for identifying the owner of the ghostly hand on Van der Pas’s shoulder, Jonathan Lopez says it is Franz Liszt but does not name all the composers. Edward Dolnick captions the image with the names of all the composers citing Chopin as the figure on the far right. Frank Wynne describes the work and the grouping: “In his gloomy portrait of the concert pianist Theo van der Pas (plate 4), the assembled spectres of Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin et al, loom over the rapt performer more like executioners than muses.” (10) Prior to the work’s sale in September 2004, the auction house Van Stockum in The Hague described the figures thus: “Around him [Van der Pas] stand the shadows of composers, from left to right Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Schumann and Chopin. Next to Van der Pas sits Schubert.” Comparison of Van Meegeren’s composer image on the far right to the plethora of Franz Liszt images brings it closest to Joseph Kriehuber’s several portraits of Liszt as a young man. There are images of Chopin as a young man that also resembles Van Meegeren’s last standing composer of the group. This simply reminds us that slim prosperous young men of that era (probably the 1830s and 1840s) with prominent cheekbones and large noses also dressed in similar fashion of the era and had their hair worn in the style then popular. If Van Meegeren was familiar with Van der Pas’s repertoire, he would surely have shown Chopin and not Liszt. While not among the six top prizewinners (because of a much later acknowledged desire by the competition’s Polish sponsors to name Polish pianists in the top categories), Van der Pas was awarded the Diplôme d’Honneur at the First International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, 1927. “The archives of the pianist Theo van der Pas (1902-1986) contain correspondence, documentation and photos. Van der Pas was known as a Chopin performer and was professor of piano at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague.” This is a written statement in 2003 by Dr. C. Beck-de Jong, conservator of the Music Archives at the Netherlands Music Institute. (11) Moreover, only one recording made by Van der Pas that includes Liszt has been identified since Van der Pas’s complete discography has not been found online.
Contemporary images of Fryderyk Chopin show him with fleshy lips and a large hooked nose that was broad at the base, especially notable in profile images of him. In Delacroix’s unfinished 1838 portrait of Chopin, the composer’s nose is prominent above full lips. Chopin’s ancestry was not Jewish, rather his roots were French (paternal) and Polish (maternal) Catholics. His very small and lean frame, probably a result of his tuberculosis contracted at age twelve, intensified and sharpened his facial features. Van Meegeren’s Chopin looks young and healthy. In the rotunda of the Kosciuszko Foundation house in New York City is a larger-than-life-size bronze statue of a seated Chopin by the noted Polish sculptor Ludwika Nitschowa (1889-1989). By standing to one side and looking at the head in full profile, the viewer sees Chopin’s large hooked nose, which dominates his face. This Chopin statue (created 1976-1980) is the last of five Chopin statues produced in the sculptor’s lifetime. In the Van Meegeren grouping, sitting next to Van der Pas on the piano bench in a place of honor is Schubert, looking away toward the left at Beethoven. This placement of his image recalls Schubert’s profound admiration, one could say adoration, of Beethoven, viz. Schubert’s quotation in his Ninth (the Great C Major) Symphony from the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Any viewer not familiar with the face of Chopin who sees it for the first time and notes the hooked nose and large lips, especially during the era of the Nazi regime in Germany and its wartime occupation of several countries with all its anti-Semitic propaganda and images, would have been familiar with the Nazi portrayals of “vile Jews” with the same facial features – hooked noses and large, fleshy lips. Would Van Meegeren have wanted to send a Jewish-looking Chopin in the Van der Pas drawing to the Führer after the artist took pains not to include Mendelssohn? It would be easy for Van Meegeren to make Chopin appear more Liszt-like, that is, less Jewish. Van Meegeren’s image is Chopin; it is simply a very poor image of Chopin with a greatly scaled down nose, and might be better described as Chopliszt.
The composers are all immediately recognizable although the images on which Van Meegeren modeled his versions seem to vary, and we do not know what image sources he used. Mozart is in a dark coat with his right hand raised to chest level, palm outward, gesturing to the pianist. Beethoven’s head is equal in size to Bach’s (both Beethoven and Bach are the largest heads in the composition) while Beethoven’s added torso and reaching hand are shown. Beethoven’s figure is that of a giant among the other smaller figures. Bach’s head and cascading wig are the central visual point in the drawing; he is precisely in the center, and he is a ghostly white, which radiates brightly toward all the other figures in the drawing. Standing somewhat behind Schumann, is Brahms as he appeared towards the end of his life in an often reproduced print (and some known photographs) with droopy mustache, scraggly beard (partly hidden in the drawing), and a head of thinning hair. Schumann’s image is recognizable but not a very good likeness of him at all. And, the Chopin image could even be mistaken for Mendelssohn, another slim young man who had long wavy locks, a large nose (but far smaller a hooked nose than Chopin’s) and was always stylishly though conservatively dressed, as were the young Chopin and Liszt. (12) Mendelssohn, however, does not appear in this grouping with Bach whose St. Matthew Passion was revived in 1829 in Berlin by Mendelssohn to great acclaim. (13) Van Meegeren was a successful society portraitist in the 1920s, which leaves one to wonder why his composer portraits around Van der Pas are less than successful recreations. An auction catalogue describes Van der Pas in the portrait: “The pianist Theo van der Pas feels himself full of emotion during his playing by the gesture of the hands of the big componists.[sic]” (14) The Schubert seated next to Van der Pas appears to be based on an image from one of the late 19th century versions of him as seen on ubiquitous Viennese postcards featuring their native son composer. (See note 1.) It is not a good likeness of Schubert, but passable, and of course, die Brille – Schubert’s famous spectacles – are the instant giveaway.
In 1932, after a dispute with the Haagse Kunstkring (Hague Art Society), Van Meegeren gave up his membership in the society and left the Netherlands to live in France, not returning to his home country until 1939.15 Van der Pas continued to build his career. On 10 September 1936, he appeared at The Hague in a benefit concert during which intermission Van der Pas took part in a recreation of a Schubertiad. With himself at the piano dressed in period clothing, wig, sideburns, and spectacles, he was Schubert accompanying the opera and oratorio singer baritone Willem Ravelli (1892-1980) who took the part of one of Schubert’s earliest Lieder interpreters, Johann Michael Vogl (1768-1840). A group of men and women (including Mrs. Van der Pas), all dressed in period clothing, attended as the Schubertiad audience seated around the piano. (16) We are not certain if Van Meegeren did or did not see Van der Pas as Schubert in 1936 since Van Meegeren was about to leave the Netherlands. At the end of the Van der Pas biography, the reproduction of Van Meegeren’s drawing is dated 1938/1939 while the English-language insert in the liner notes of a Van der Pas CD states:
“In 1940/1941 Han Van Meegeren asked Theo van der Pas to pose for a large drawing. Playing on a Grand Piano, the pianist is watched (hopefully with approval) by the great composers Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Schumann, Chopin and seated, Schubert.”17 In 1941, under the German Occupation the performance of French, English and American musical works was forbidden in the Netherlands.18 But what about the Polish-born Chopin? Why was he acceptable in Van Meegeren’s grouping? In fact, although Polish music and composers were banned, an exception was made for Chopin. The Nazi Governor-General of occupied Poland, Hans Frank (1900-1946) – a pianist and Chopin admirer who had the statue of Chopin in Warsaw pulled down for German scrap metal used in making armaments – even had a Chopin Museum built in Krakow. (19)
After his return from the French Riviera it appears that Van Meegeren had painted Theo van der Pas during the years that Van Meegeren lived in a villa in Laren, a well-known artists colony about 15 km east of Amsterdam. The work is described in a 1950 auction catalogue of Van Meegeren’s property: “No. 206. A picture representing: a pianorecital by Theo van der Pas in the masters [sic] house in Laren. A party of ladies and gentlemen is attentively listening to the music. The interior is decorated with a picture by Gerald ter Borch, two antique oak statues, an oak chest, etc. Studio stamp at the bottom right. Canvas 70×80 cm. In gold frame.” (20) Van Meegeren had a music room in his house at Keizersgracht 321 so it is quite possible that Van der Pas went to Van Meegeren’s Amsterdam villa to play in this private setting. Also listed in the catalogue as No. 200 is an entry described as a large crayon drawing of Theo van der Pas, 150×250 cm, and that it was exhibited at the Mesdag Museum, The Hague – no date given. (21)
In Kreuger, the image of the Van der Pas portrait is captioned: “Deze grote tekening van de pianist Theo van der Pas (1,5 bij 2 meter) heeft jarenlang in Van Meegerens huis gehangen. Later hing hij bij neef Van Meegeren in Wassenaar.” (This large drawing of the pianist Theo van der Pas (1.5 meters by 2 meters) hung for many years in Van Meegeren’s house. Later it hung at Van Meegeren’s nephew in Wassenaar.) (22) Where is this picture of Van der Pas? As for Vermeer scholar Albert Blankert, he takes note of Van Meegeren’s Theo van der Pas portrait and the correctly named composers surrounding him in the image’s caption. “For the elevated pathos of Christ at Emmaus was also to be found in the works van Meegeren exhibited under his own name. (Fig. 50). The same critics who had rejected that pathos as hollow and exaggerated when it was presented to them as the brainchild of the unknown Han van Meegeren, were completely seduced by it when they thought it came from Johannes Vermeer.” (23)
Van Meegeren had an anxious and psychologically fraught childhood. He was a sickly and small child who was dominated and emotionally abused by his father whose constant message to the boy was that he was a cheat and amounted to nothing. His mother apparently had some feeling for art but was weak and submissive in the face of her husband’s overbearing personality. Van Meegeren’s father would not hear of art study for his son. As the boy grew to adolescence he found that he enjoyed art in high school – it was Van Meegeren’s high school art teacher who introduced him to Vermeer. The most Van Meegeren’s father would consider was for Han to study architecture. Han van Meegeren indeed studied architecture but ignored taking the final examination that would have gained him a license to work as an architect. He did little in the way of architecture and turned to drawing and painting. Now grown, Van Meegeren pursued the art studies his father earlier disdained.
By the 1920s, after years of struggle making little income, Vann Meegeren developed a reputation making society portraits for wealthy patrons in the Netherlands and abroad. His portraits were adequate and pleasing and he was successful at it, making a lot of money. Much of his other artwork was not remarkable, reviewers said. Van Meegeren’s anger at art critics and the art establishment in the 1920s, dismissive of his less than stellar talent, evolved into an ego-driven urge to avenge him on these critics. Thus the stage was set for his career as an art forger which led him to study the 17th century Dutch Masters – their subjects, their painting styles and techniques, their compounding of pigments, the canvas they used, and so on. He also developed a technique to age his “Old Master” canvases by baking them. The history of his career as an art forger is well documented in dozens of books and articles.
With his already conservative religious views and politics derived from his early family environment, Van Meegeren developed a sense of comfort with far right thinking. In 1928 he founded and wrote frequently for a small art journal De Kemphaan with a staunch anti-modernist philosophy and a like-minded editor and writer-contributors. By the 1930s he moved toward admiration of Hitler and the Nazi movement in Germany.24 Along the way, during his early years of success, Van Meegeren became a heavy drinker, and after many years he probably came close to being alcoholic; later in life he became heavily dependent on morphine-based sleeping pills. Whatever addictions he acquired he easily supported by his income. His first marriage disintegrated over his affair with a friend’s wife. His second marriage ended in divorce by design – it was agreed by Van Meegeren and his second wife Jo in order to shield his great wealth. His life style gradually slid into decadence; he began using his villas – at one time he owned several in different countries – as headquarters for drunken debauches with prostitutes, friends, acquaintances and strangers. (25)
To return to the absence in the Van der Pas portrait of Mendelssohn – a composer performed by Van der Pas: By 1941, about the time when Van Meegeren made this portrait of Van der Pas, Hitler’s regime had already banned Mendelssohn’s name, image and works from its musical and cultural life. Mendelssohn was banned from performance because he was a Jewish composer despite his family and his own conversion (he was baptized at the age of seven in the Lutheran Church). His image was not permitted publication, the famous statues of him were torn down, and his name and work disappeared from the repertoire of German music and was excised from German music literature. The rise of Wagner and Wagnerism in the 1850s with its anti-Semitism and anti-Mendelssohn attacks endured into the 20th century with its violent promotion by Hitler and Nazi-led Germany. By the end of the war in 1945 many young people in Germany had no knowledge of Felix Mendelssohn the composer and had never heard his music.
If Van Meegeren’s intention and desire were to remain close to the Nazi ideology he admired and to be seen as a source of art to the Nazis with money – such as Hermann Goering to whom Van Meegeren sold one of his forged Vermeers – then Mendelssohn the Jew was too risky a personality for his image to be included as one of the composers in the group around Van der Pas even if the pianist had played Mendelssohn’s music. (26) If Van Meegeren wished to be seen as a reliable adherent to the Nazi regime, although not a Party member, and to ensure his ability to make art sales to the Nazi bigwigs, then the truth that Van der Pas’s repertoire included the despised Jew Mendelssohn meant dispensing with the truth. I believe this to be the most reasonable and consistent explanation for Mendelssohn’s absence from the Van der Pas composer grouping. A reproduction of the Van der Pas watercolor was included with Van Meegeren’s book of drawings sans Mendelssohn just as it was originally made. Would it be likely that Van Meegeren would send a gift of his drawings to the Wagnerloving arch-anti-Semite Hitler and include a reproduction of the Van der Pas watercolor with Mendelssohn in it?
Some who have followed Van Meegeren’s life maintain that he was neither a Nazi nor an anti-Semite. Leon Vosters, a contemporary Dutch collector of Van Meegeren’s own art, says:
“Van Meegeren didn’t have strong nazi bias. You [responding to this author] probably got this from Jonathan Lopez’ book but so many things in this book were made up. Van Meegeren didn’t really care about the war. One of his best friends was the Jew Jopie Breemer. He even paid money to the Germans to protect Jopie. Van Meegeren made a beautiful painting; ‘Portrait of Jopie Breemer as a praying Jew’.” (27)
No one, Vosters included, has produced evidence or documentation supporting these contentions other than the fact that Van Meegeren made the watercolor of Breemer, a pleasant but otherwise unremarkable three-quarter length portrait of the sitting Breemer wearing a tallis, the traditional Jewish prayer shawl. However, no evidence has been found that mentioned the reasons for the portrait. In any event, Jopie Breemer, who was not a religious Jew, was painted as one. Why would that have happened circa 1941 when the Netherlands had been under German occupation for a year and the Nazi regime in Germany had shown the world its political and racial ideology in action for the preceding eight years? While little has been written about Breemer, and no major biography about his life and his poetry has been published, he has become the subject of critical studies long after his death. (28) Several Van Meegeren researchers state flatly that Van Meegeren was not an anti-Semite. (29) That may be the case, or not. However, no one has produced authentic documented evidence either way. That Jopie Breemer’s portrait hung in Van Meegeren’s house and then in his nephew’s house could be interpreted as trying to keep it out of sight during the German Occupation when questions would have been raised about the Jew in the tallis. (30) Breemer was associated marginally with the Haagse Kunstkring (Hague Art Society) and was better known in the early decades of the 20th century as a leading light in Amsterdam’s Bohemian circles. (31) Breemer had so many friends and followers during his bohemian heyday that they were informally called the Jopianen. (32) Another question for consideration is: what happened to Jopie Breemer during the five years of the German Occupation and the catastrophe that struck the Jews of the Netherlands. Did Jopie consider himself part of the Jewish community? Did others? Did Breemer register in a census of Jews that was ordered by the Occupation authorities making it very convenient for the Germans to locate Jews for deportation? Did he go into hiding, join the resistance or did he flee the country? But where would he go? What happened to Jopie Breemer that insured his survival? Did Han van Meegeren pay off the Germans as claimed by Leon Vosters? If so, what documentation is there to support this contention. So far none has been offered about the pay-off.
As I found somewhat late in my research, Jopie Breemer was not the first portrait by Van Meegeren of a Talmud-reading Jew. He had painted a similar portrait in 1915, simply called Talmoedlezer (Talmud Reader) – which may not have been his title at all but that is how it hanse been called – and was included in the first public one-man showing of Van Meegeren’s artwork in 1917; a comment was noted about this work in the exhibition: “Of his Talmud Reader it was said: ‘… a splendid and expressive drawing in which the exaggeration of the hands should not be seen as an error but as an accentuation of the pious gesture….” (33) Nothing more is known about this particular early portrait of a Talmud reader.
More important, there is a “Portret-Studie Jopie Breemer,” as it is captioned in the pages of a short-lived art magazine edited by the art critic whose wife became Van Meegeren’s second wife. (34) From 1914 to about 1924 Van Meegeren lived and worked in The Hague while Breemer lived in Amsterdam before and after World War I. This study of Jopie Breemer, published in 1918, when linked to the ca. 1941 portrait of Breemer made by Van Meegeren is the strongest evidence yet that the two men knew each other for a number of years and possibly met in the periods when Van Meegeren lived in Laren and Amsterdam. The two men had in common their presence at the Haagse Kunstkring. The 1918 head of Breemer – we do not know when this image was made, we know only that 1918 was its appearance in print – is undoubtedly the much younger version of the man portrayed in 1941. In both the early study and the later Praying Jew, Breemer’s hairline above a high forehead is about the same although the younger Breemer had far more hair; the arched eyebrows are the same as are the drooping upper eyelids over deep-set eyes, and the strong nose. The oldern Jopie’s lips have thinned somewhat while his high cheek bones, long face and rounded chin are immediately recognizable; with the rest of the portrait’s facial elements this is the same face in both portraits.
Let us return to the Van der Pas portrait. A question I pose: why did Van Meegeren give Schubert the place of honor on the piano bench, sitting next to Van der Pas? Van der Pas was not especially known as a Schubert interpreter in his career although we know that he performed Schubert on occasion and that at the conservatory he taught piano accompaniment, which included Lieder and Schubert. One of Van der Pas’s piano students, the ballet conductor André Presser who revered Van der Pas, shared some memories of his student days studying piano accompanying with Van der Pas: “How he deals with the singer? Where he follows her, where he feels free in the interpretation? When Theo van der Pas teaches André to adapt to a different artist, to become one with him, to give rise to something new in common.” (35) Another student, Joop Stokkermans who went on to a phenomenal music career, recalled the great successes that his teacher Theo van der Pas had. In the Van der Pas biography is a photo of young Stokkermans with his teacher before the Van Meegeren portrait. (36)
At the inaugural concert in 2001 of an annual series organized by the Theo van der Pas Foundation was pianist Folke Nauta who played only works of Chopin. (37)
There is a long performance history of Schubert in the Netherlands, in the repertoires of national and regional orchestra and chamber organizations, respected conservatories graduating orchestra musicians and solo performers, and strong vocal programs in the Lieder tradition which produced outstanding Dutch instrumentalists and singers. Schubert has had a long and favored home in the Netherlands with an attentive and loyal public following and numerous recordings by the foremost Dutch orchestras. How did that translate into Van Meegeren’s positioning Schubert in a place of honor in the Van de Pas drawing? What knowledge did Van Meegeren have of Schubert’s music? When and how did Van Meegeren and Van der Pas meet? Coincidentally, during the early years of the German Occupation both men are mentioned in different parts of a local newspaper working at their careers – Van der Pas is playing with a chamber group and Van Meegeren has an exhibit of his works. (38) The pianist’s daughter, Thea, attests to her father’s love of Schubert Lieder which he taught at the Conservatory. She was a trained singer and was accompanied by her father in many concerts; she was, in effect, his pupil learning from him about Lieder, performing the works of many composers in many styles and languages. (39) Did Van Meegeren simply ask Van der Pas to indicate which composer should be seated next to him?
Van Meegeren was thirteen years older than Van der Pas whose career took off after his recognition at the 1927 Chopin Competition. Van Meegeren produced his first forgeries ca. 1922 with two portraits done in the style of Frans Hals. They were soon uncovered for the fakes they were although the artist who made them – Van Meegeren – was not discovered until later. Van Meegeren had yet to explore the tools he needed to complete the high-quality fakery – with techniques described above – that he would eventually use with his Vermeer forgeries. Van Meegeren had already been a successful society portraitist until he began his studies in the early 1930s of the techniques and materials with which to create a fake Old Master. He had money yet his life style was bound to a strong desire to acquire more money and to show up the art critics for the fools they were. Van Meegeren’s life as a Vermeer forger from 1930 on has been well documented. His friendships, such as the ones with pianist Theo van der Pas and poet Jopie Breemer, are little understood. (40) It seems that Breemer was unusually social and friendly: “It was in Amsterdam at the house of Jopie Breemer, whose door was always open to his friends, architects, journalists, actors, writers and their wives and girl friends….” (41) Were these true friendships that Van Meegeren had with Van der Pas and Breemer or were they casual acquaintances from having met at the Haagse Kunstkring or at Jopie’s house? (42) Was Van Meegeren a music lover? Was Van Meegeren a Schubert Liebhaber before he met Van der Pas or did Van der Pas influence the choices Van Meegeren made in listening to music and attending concerts and recitals? Biographies of Van Meegeren as the Vermeer forger do not go into those aspects of Van Meegeren’s life.
Theo van der Pas was successful and recognized as a first-rate pianist. Hem had an early and happy marriage and children. His wife died young of cancer and it was many years before Van der Pas remarried, having a second happy marriage. It seems that Van Meegeren and Van der Pas could not have been more different. It is difficult to see what they had in common. One rather surprising statement about Theo van der Pas appears in an American anthology about fakes and forgeries of many kinds, not just art. Klaus Mann writes of an interview with Van Meegeren and speaks of “musicians with sheepishly transfigured faces over still white collars and neatly tied white ties”; after which he says (in the pertinent paragraph long quote below):
“It is no wonder that the Nazis had a penchant for Mynheer Van Meegeren’s products…. [sic] How Hitler must have loved this conspicuously Germanic-looking pianist surrounded by the ghosts of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms! How this cheap and showy mysticism must have appealed to the Fuehrer’s poetic heart! Don’t I recall having heard rather unpleasant stories about the pianist, one Theo van der Pas, portrayed here in such illustrious company? The Dutch virtuoso on whose shoulder Van Meegeren placed Chopin’s spooky hand was in fact such an ardent “collaborationist” that his compatriots, after the liberation, banned him for two years from the concert halls. Van Meegeren, however, did not deem it necessary to remove his friend Theo from the wall of his drawing room. It was not without pride that he showed us a large, pompously presented book containing, among scores of other “real Van Meegerens,” a full-page reproduction of the Pas portrait. The book, which offers also some rhapsodical articles on Van Meegeren’s art and personality, was printed in the Netherlands at the time of the German occupation. A copy of the book was found in Hitler’s personal library, adorned with the artist’s autographed dedication to the Fuehrer.” (43)
Klaus Mann (1906-1949), the writer son of Thomas Mann, led a peripatetic and often unhappy existence in the 1930s and 1940s in exile from Nazi Germany. He had been a world traveler since the late 1920s but that was by choice. Following Hitler’s accession to power, Klaus Mann left for Paris after having enraged the German Government with his anti-Nazi political cabaret. While based in Paris he visited Amsterdam, living there for long periods over the years 1933 to 1936 in a family-owned house. The Netherlands gave Mann a laisez-passer, which made Mann a stateless person but with freedom to move. He was stripped of his German citizenship in 1934 while he was in the Netherlands, and in 1936 he left Amsterdam and moved to the US becoming an American citizen in 1943. He served in the US Army as a reporter for the Army’s newspaper Stars and Stripes. As one of the paper’s writers he was sent to report from postwar Germany.44 Whether this permitted Mann to leave Germany and travel to the Netherlands is unclear.
What is one to make of Mann’s assertions that Theo van der Pas was a collaborator with the Germans and that he was banished from Dutch concert halls for two years after the end of the war by an informal agreement among his colleagues? So-called Honor Courts were set up in Netherlands at the war’s end to mete out some kind of justice to those who had collaborated with the German occupiers but no mention has been found that Van der Pas was summoned to appear and be charged with anything. Van der Pas may well have been friendly towards Van Meegeren since they met in overlapping social circles. Van Meegeren’s membership in the Haagse Kunstkring (from 1919 until 1932) served both his social and artistic ends. Jopie Breemer was on the fringes of the Kunstkring. Van Meegeren and Van der Pas may have met at the Hague Art Society or at the Amsterdam home of Jopie Breemer. Van der Pas had many close and warm friendships and professional relationships with Jewish musicians such as Emanuel Feuermann, Szymon (Simon) Goldberg and Nathan Milstein. He had admiring Jewish students at the Conservatory such as André Presser (see above). There is no indication that he expressed any Nazi sympathies. His daughter says that though her father and family knew Van Meegeren, he was not a family friend: “during the war he [Van Meegeren] did choose the side of the enemy.” (45) A search of Dutch newspapers for the period 1923 to 1955 does not report any pro-Nazi statement by Van der Pas or any action taken (officially or informally) in 1945 or after to ban him from concert halls. The newspapers show that he performed in the Netherlands during the German Occupation from 1940 to 1945.
He continued performing without a significant break until he retired in 1956, but this retirement was only from the concert stage; he continued to teach at the Conservatory. His very active performing life during the German Occupation undoubtedly meant that Van der Pas had joined the Nederlandsche Kultuurkamer which permitted only those approved artists, writers and performers to continue to exhibit, publish and perform during the Occupation. All “cultural workers” were required to register with their guild within the Kultuurkamer or they would not work. Musicians could perform in private concerts to obtain paid work but that would have been a catastrophic choice ensuring fewer such opportunities than public concerts which drew ever larger crowds than even before the invasion. Musicians of all genres and groupings were historically low paid and doomed to struggle, including those who played in symphony orchestras. (46) Even Van Meegeren had to register with the ultuurkamer in order to exhibit his art but he had made friends with the leading officials in this regard. This led to the somewhat confused postwar situation in which some of those who joined the Kultuurkamer in order to make a living bore the collaborator label during and/or after the war. (47) It is also true that many in the arts, literature and journalism refused to register with the Kultuurkamer and either pursued their profession in secret, with the resistance or simply stopped working altogether. The Kultuurkamer was imposed by the German Occupation in the Netherlands just as the Reischskulturkammer was imposed in Germany in 1933 whereby only approved Aryan artists and writers willingly (or under duress) joined the institution in order to work. (48) An interesting comment sheds some light on the lack of control that musicians had over their own professional lives: “In the first year of war, two lists circulated in the Reichscommissariat that are historically interesting.… An unknown author classified … Dutch composers and performing musicians … into three categories. Sometimes the author … noted whether the persons were Jews or half-Jews. … four pianists of the first category: Willem Andriessen, George van Renesse, Cor de Groot and Theo van der Pas.”49 The Kultuurkamer bureaucrats knew who the so-called culture workers were. Klaus Mann would have been familiar with that precise situation in his homeland where he was an opponent of the Nazi regime and therefore not an approved artist. He was stripped of his citizenship after he fled to safety.
Van Meegeren joined the Haagse Kunstkring in 1919; he left the Netherlands for the south of France in 1932 after the blow-up at the Kunstkring, and he returned in 1939. During his years away he studied and perfected his plan to produce the forged Old Masters, especially a few Vermeers. Van Meegeren may have met Jopie Breemer during the years of his Kunstkring membership especially since Breemer was well-known for his earlier so-called “Jopie-hol,” or Jopie cave, his Amsterdam house on a canal which was open to all. Those years were in the pre-World War 1 era but Breemer’s bohemian reputation for welcoming all in the arts, literature and science lived on. (50) The list of names of visitors and friends who went on to make reputations for themselves in the arts – visual, performing and literary – is evidence that Jopie had a personality that drew people in and secured mutual trust and friendship. There is no evidence that Van Meegeren had contact with Theo van der Pas or Jopie Breemer from 1932 until after Van Meegeren returned to Netherlands and resumed an active life there. Van Meegeren was able to exhibit his art in Germany and he attended the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, which were sanitized by the Nazi regime so as not to offend foreigners with the regime’s constant propaganda and roundups of political opponents and Jews.
The dating of the portraits is interesting. In the case of the Theo van der Pas portrait, it is a watercolor and mixed technique (pen and ink) on paper, 152 x 253 cm, ca. 1941. Its last appearance was when Meegeren’s descendants offered the work for sale by auctioneers Van Stockum, The Hague, in September 2004.
Another version of Theo van der Pas portrait was done by Van Meegeren: 1) a design for a charcoal and white chalk poster and, 2) a poster in charcoal and white chalk on paper, unframed 105 x 67 cm., both at Christie’s Netherlands in 2002. Auction houses publish the detailed descriptions of the works they offer and I do not doubt their word on physical details although the years in which the works were created remain uncertain. The large portrait was mentioned in the newspaper De Tijd, November 20, 1941; it was described as “een grote teekening” (a great drawing) by Jan Ubink, a Van Meegeren comrade of De Kemphaan days. (51)
Van Meegeren’s “Portrait of Jopie Breemer as a praying Jew” was offered at auction by Christie’s Amsterdam, 30 October 1996, and described as an oil on canvas, 97 x 80.5 cm, and signed lower right H. Van Meegeren, and signed again and inscribed with the title on a label on the stretcher. The provenance provided is H.H. Thyssen, Lugano. (52) Prior to the auction, the portrait was included in a Van Meegeren exhibit in the Rotterdam Kunsthal, February 10 to June 2, 1996. Kreuger has an illustration of Jopie Bremer [sic]: “Een van zijn vele feestvrieden was Jopie Bremer, hier posend als de Talmoedlezer.” (One of his many festive friends was Jopie Bremer, posing here as a Talmud reader.) (53) The part of the portrait’s title “as a praying Jew” is misleading and may not have been the portrait’s original title, if it had any other than the name of its subject. Breemer is seated with a book in his hand, which could be a siddur, or prayer book, but not the Talmud although the name Talmud may have been better known among non Jews. Moreover, the Talmud would not be as small as the book Breemer holds in his lap. And, he does not appear to be wearing a yarmulke, which all male Jews age thirteen and older must wear during prayers – and for some Orthodox males the yarmulke must be worn at all times. The tallis or prayer shawl appears to have been modeled after the real garment. If Breemer did not own, inherit, or borrow a tallis it would have taken Van Meegeren only one or two visits to a synagogue to see and make notes of the garment – noting the color and number of any stripes and noting the position of the fringes on the tallis. The number of stripes on the tallis may reflect nothing more than the local custom of the congregants; there is no religious requirement as to the number of stripes. But it is highly doubtful that synagogues were long open during the Occupation although they may have remained active in the very early years, if Van Meegeren was even interested in that sort of research. It is more likely that Van Meegeren would have visited a synagogue before the German invasion but where and when remains purely speculative at this point. It is just as likely that Jopie borrowed a tallis. There is no proof either way.
The Netherlands was populated by Sephardic Jews from the Iberian peninsula who wandered through Europe looking for safe havens after their expulsion from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497. These Sephardic Jews began to arrive in the late 15th century, settling in Amsterdam and gradually becoming successful in commerce. Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe settled in the Netherlands in the early 16th century but unlike the Sephardic community who preferred Amsterdam, the Ashkenazi moved throughout the Low Countries to settle. The Ashkenazi community was the poorer of the two communities, and remained so for a long time. In the Sephardic tradition the tallis has no stripes; it is white all over. In the Eastern European Ashkenazi tradition, the tallis has stripes of black, blue, or white with a symbolic preference for black stripes in memory of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Breemer is wearing a tallis of the Ashkenazi tradition. Was Jopie Breemer from the Ashkenazi community? Was he a religious Jew? According to the few historical facts about his life, it would be assumed that as a bohemian, artist, poet, and actor who mixed with Jews and Christians, he was not at all religious. Breemer married twice, in 1918 and 1925, and itm appears that both his wives were Christian.
Well before the First World War Breemer was drawn to the Socialist movement in the Netherlands and met many artists, writers and poets who were similarly attracted to the philosophy of socialism. Two intertwined names associated with Breemer have emerged in this research with surprising results. First is C.S. (Carel Steven) Adama van Scheltema (1877-1924), a Socialist poet who came from a wealthy family; his father was an art connoisseur and art dealer. The other is A.M. (Adriaan Marinus) Broekman (1874-1946), an artist. Adama van Scheltema has the more enduring reputation as a poet despite his sudden death at age forty-seven whereas Broekman’s longer life did not seem to bring him great notice or fame as an artist. The two men were linked in friendship with Jopie Breemer as was very briefly described in a book by writer, psychologist and poet, and sometime Socialist, E. d’Oliveira. He remarked of Adama van Scheltema as D’Oliveira recalled a conversation he witnessed in Adama van Scheltema’s living room: “boven hem in een wat te deftige lijst hing het ondeugend tronie van Jopie Bremer, ons aller vriend, (geschilderd door Marinus Broekman)” (above him in a somewhat stately frame hung the naughty mug of Jopie Bremer, our common friend, (painted by Marinus Broekman). (54) If this was, indeed, a portrait by Broekman then the count of portraits of Breemer rises to six – three by Van Meegeren (the early study and the later paintings) and one each by Ed. Gerdes (see Personalia), A.M. Broekman and Jan Poortenaar (See Personalia). The origin and whereabouts of the Broekman portrait is a mystery as is much of Broekman’s life. Broekman lived in Laren as did Van Meegeren but we have no knowledge that they lived there at the same time or that they met. Two notices appeared in Dutch newspapers about the upcoming seventieth birthday of portraitist and caricaturist Marinus Broekman in which he (like Van Meegeren) is cited as a member of the Vereniging van Beeldende Kunsten te Laren-Blaricum (Association of Fine Arts in Laren-Blaricum). (55)
*NOTE: Translations are the author’s and any errors are solely my fault.
(1) Janet I. Wasserman, “A Schubert Iconography: Painters, Sculptors, Lithographers, Illustrators, Silhouettists, Engravers, and Others Known or Said to Have Produced a Likeness of Franz Schubert,” in Music in Art; International Journal for Music Iconography [City University of New York, Research Center for Music Iconography], XXVIII, 1-2, 2003, pp.199-241.
(2) Benjamin Binstock, Vermeer’s Family Secrets: Genius, Discovery, and the Unknown Apprentice (Routledge, 2009).
(3) Binstock, Vermeer’s Family Secrets, 59. The image (plate 40) is labeled “Van Meegeren, Theo van der Pas, ca. 1940;” and following is the source provided for the image – the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie. However, the entry in the RKD portrait database, number 109736, provides no mention of the date of the portrait’s creation nor does it provide the dimensions and medium. This large drawing, as it is usually described, is a watercolor and mixed technique [pen and ink drawing] on paper, 152×253 cm, ca. 1942; that date – 1942 – is perhaps open to question. The drawing was included in an exhibition mounted by Van Meegeren at the Kunstzaal of the Hotel Hamdorff in Laren and reported in De Tijd, 20 November 1941. The newspaper’s critic apparently did not like the Van der Pas drawing, writing that the artist depicts Van der Pas “as a superman, as a self-absorbed titan,” and of the gallery of composers’ heads as they spin through the clouds: “Men zal toegeven dat dit iets te veel is.” (One will admit that this is too much.) In Frank Wynne, I Was Vermeer (Bloomsbury, 2006), the reproduction of the painting opposite p. 150 is captioned a “melodramatic potboiler.” The portrait’s last appearance was when Van der Pas’s descendants offered the work for sale by auctioneers Van Stockum, The Hague, in September 2004, for ca. 10,000 euros; the drawing sold for 8,500 euros. It was noted that one of Van Meegeren’s forged Vermeers could go for as much as 45,000 euros. No researcher has yet made clear that there is a smaller, later version of the large watercolor drawing of “Theo van der Pas” done by Van Meegeren after his original large portrait; the later version is a charcoal and white chalk poster and was offered at Christie’s Netherlands in 2002. Also found was the design for the poster. Whatever versions are cited, there is no certainty as to the exact dates of their creation but we can make some fairly good estimates based on Van Meegeren’s return to the Netherlands (1939) and the date of the article in De Tijd (1941).
(4) Binstock, Vermeer’s Family Secrets, 86. On 11 March 1829, twenty-year-old Felix Mendelssohn conducted at Berlin’s Singakademie the first albeit shortened performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion since ca. 1742 (and not since the work’s premiere in 1727, as has been alleged). Bach was not, in fact, rediscovered; he had most likely been overtaken by up and coming composers after his death in 1750. The Mendelssohns were avid collectors of Bach manuscripts and several family members, including Felix’s mother, played Bach at home. It would be more appropriate to say that Bach underwent a revival and not a rediscovery, although some musicologists contend that the issue is not settled. See Jeffrey S. Sposato, The Price of Assimilation: Felix Mendelssohn and the Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitic Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), in which Sposato cites Bach performances in 1729, 1736 and ca. 1742, p. 191n1. (5) Margaret Krill, Nederlandse Pianisten. Meesters Uit de 19de en 20ste Eeuw (Bekking & Blitz, 2010). A CD of the same title was produced in 2010 by the Netherlands Music Institute as an accompaniment to the book. Theo van der Pas appears in the book and the CD.
(6) Frederik H. Kreuger, A New Vermeer: Life and Work of Han van Meegeren (Delft: Quantes, 2007), p. 119, incorrectly states that the hand belongs to Schumann. He goes on to say that Van Meegeren “was extremely proud of it [the portrait] and had it hung in his own house in Laren and later in Amsterdam.” Below Krueger says: “He made portraits as well, again of the pianist Van der Pas, and of his own daughter Inez, who at 27 was a fine-looking woman.” That would have placed the second portrait of Van der Pas around 1942.
(7) D. Kraaijpoel and H. van Wijnen, Han Van Meegeren 1889-1947 en zijn Meesterwerk van Vermeer (Waanders, 1996), p. 48; H. de Boer, Pieter Koomen, Martien Beversluis and Jan Feith, Han van Meegeren: Teekeningen I (‘s-Gravenhage: Boucher, 1942), “Musicus” is plate no. 21.
(8) Haagsch Maanblad, vol.37-38, 1942, p. 246.
(9) Benjamin Binstock, Vermeer’s Family Secrets, p. 59.
(10) Jonathan Lopez, The Man Who Made Vermeers (Harcourt, 2008), p. 130; Edward Dolnick, The Forger’s Spell (HarperCollins, 2008), opp. p. 180; Frank Wynne, I Was Vermeer, p. 97.
(11) See http://nederlandsmuziekinstituut.nl.
(12) See Janet I. Wasserman, “Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy & Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Portrait Iconographies,” Music in Art [City University of New York, Research Center for Music Iconography], XXXIII/1-2 (2008), pp. 317-371, and, Janet I. Wasserman, “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy as ‘Peter Meffert of Buxtehude’,” published 2009 online at http://www.janetwasserman.com.
(13) An earlier biographer of Van Meegeren cites the negative judgments of the art critics by quoting the well-known connoisseur, critic and art dealer David Carritt: “They took pleasure in deriding him, and still do: he has been described, for instance, by one well-known judge as ‘a bad artist, whose pictures of dainty roebucks sniffing almond-blossom, and of Paderewski-style pianists [meaning Theo van der Pas] receiving inspiration from the ghost of Liszt, had failed to win critical acclaim’. ” David Carritt, London Evening Standard, 2 February 1961, in John R. Godley, Lord Kilbracken, Van Meegeren: Master Forger (New York: Scribner’s, 1967), p. 104. Apparently Carritt thought the composer’s image hovering above Van der Pas, with his hand on the pianist’s shoulder, was Liszt, but like other commentators, never Mendelssohn.
(14) Paul Brandt, Catalogue of the Important Sale By Auction. Property of the Dutch Painter H.A. Van Meegeren at His Home Keizersgracht 321 at Amsterdam, Holland, on Tuesday 5 and Wednesday 6 September 1950 (Amsterdam: Paul Brandt, 1950), p. 40.
(15) The reasons for his leaving the Kunstkring are briefly discussed in Hope B. Werness, “Han Van Meegeren fecit,” Denis Dutton, ed., The Forger’s Art: Forgery and the Philosophy of Art (University of California Press, 1983), pp. 1-57: “It appears that Van Meegeren’s reactionary views were at least tolerated for some time, and he was an active member of the art world of The Hague. However, in April, 1932, when he decided to run for the chairmanship of one of the sections of the Kunstkring, thirty members protested and threatened to resign if he were elected….”, p. 16. After this rejection, Van Meegeren and his wife left in the autumn to live in the south of France.
(16) Wim van der Pas, Theo van der Pas (1902-1986) Een leven met muziek (Theo van der Pas Stichting, 1998), p. 46.
(17) Wim der der Pas, Theo van der Pas, p. 112; liner notes from “Monument Theo van der Pas” – a three-CD box of re- mastered Beethoven piano works performed by Theo van der Pas, issued by the Theo van der Pas Foundation. A Dutch newspaper item reports the Van Meegeren drawing, De Tijd, 20 November 1941. See a laudatory review by Jan Ubink, “Wit en Zwart: Een Beschouwing van den Kunstenaar Van Meegeren,” Haagsch Maandblad, 15 May 1942, p. 246; Ubink writes of the ‘great drawing’ of Theo van der Pas and the famous composers.
(18) W.J.M.A. Asselbergs, “Dutch Culture,” pp. 111-112 in N.W. Posthumus, ed., Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, no. 245, May 1946. This special issue of Annals featured research and articles under the title “The Netherlands During German Occupation.”
(19) The US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, has the newsreel film of the Chopin Museum opening at http://resources.ushmm.org/film/display/detail.php?file_num=4636. See also the website of Ludmilla Berkwic, the sole pianist invited to play at the inaugural concert, http://www.ludmillaberkwic.org/TL_1940s.htm. The Russian-born Berkwic (1910- 2004) was the youngest contestant in the First International Chopin Competition in 1927, the same competition where Theo van der Pas won his prize. The irony of her presence, the daughter of a Jewish father, at the inauguration of the Chopin Museum led to her denunciation and successful escape from Poland to Essen, Germany, where she survived the war as a forced laborer in an underground munitions factory.
(20) Paul Brandt, Catalogue of the Important Sale By Auction. no pagination, entries are in numerical order. No image of this picture has been found.
(21) Paul Brandt, Catalogue of the Important Sale By Auction. no. 200, no pagination for the numerical entries.
(22) Frederik H. Kreuger, Han Van Meegeren, Meestervervalser (Veen Magazines B.V., 2004), p. 105. In Frederik H. Kreuger, A New Vermeer: Life and Work of Han van Meegeren (Delft: Quantes, 2007), p. 120, the caption to the Van der Pas drawing, the author says: the drawing “hung for years in Van Meegeren’s home. It later adorned the home of his great-nephew André van Meegeren in Wassenaar, near The Hague.” Who is or was this great-nephew? Han van Meegeren had four siblings only one of who was male, his brother Hermanus who wanted to be a priest and died in 1911 at the age of twenty-three. When Han’s sisters Johanna, Wilhelmina and Augusta married, presumably they took their husbands’ names as their own, although among Dutch married women it was perfectly acceptable to retain their maiden names, and their children bore their father’s name. Han’s son Jacques had two daughters. How did the family name of Van Meegeren attach to a “great-nephew” when the lineage did not seem to provide enough male Van Meegerens to pass the name on to an André.
(23) Albert Blankert, Vermeer of Delft. Complete Edition of the Paintings, with contributions by Rob Ruurs and Willem L. van de Watering (Phaidon, 1978), pp. 70, 72-73. Figure 50, p. 72, is the portrait of Theo van der Pas.
(24) Van Meegeren’s inscription, “To my beloved Führer in grateful tribute, from H. Van Meegeren, Laren, North Holland, 1942,” contained in a book of Van Meegeren’s drawings, Teekeningen 1 (‘s-Gravenhage: L.J.C. Boucher, 1942), found in Hitler’s library after the war ended, and is still a point of contention among researchers. The inscription, Van Meegeren claimed, is a forgery while the signature is authentic. Van Meegeren said that he signed many copies upon the book’s publication as a selling point. Besides the drawings, Teekeningen I contained poetry by Dutch poet, Martien Beversluis (1894-1966), who also wrote for De Kemphaan. Beversluis and Van Meegeren are photographed together at Van Meegeren’s exhibit in 1942 during World War II at Panorama Mesdag, see photo in Frederik H. Kreuger, Han Van Meegeren, Meestervervalser, p. 106. The drawing of Theo van der Pas was included in Teekeningen 1 whose cover in red and black with gold lettering seemed to be a graphic echo of the Nazi colors and their use of bold design, according to Jonathan Lopez, The Man Who Made Vermeers, pp. 19-20, and Errol Morris, “Bamboozling Ourselves,” The New York Times, 28 May and 31 May 2009. See images at a collector’s site of militaria and books and pamphlets for 1931 to 1945 used by the NSB (Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging, the Dutch National Socialist Movement – the name for their Nazi party); the site is full of objects of all sorts using the black, red and gold colors, at http://members.home.nl/aniewold/ and companion site www.hinkepink.nl/. There can be no doubt that this choice of colors and the font used for the cover of Teekeningen I echoed the colors and fonts familiar to any Nazi anywhere. Frederik H. Kreuger presents us with the statement on p. 128 in A New Vermeer (2010) that the cover design “was not by Van Meegeren but by a Jewish refugee working with the publisher, who was forced by the authorities to create designs with a Nazi appearance.” My research on the question of the cover’s designer has found a possible person who had the training and experience in book and type design and was working at the Boucher publishing firm at the time; See Addendum B. The Van Meegeren book of drawings was reported by journalist Jan Spierdijk in “Vondst in de Rijkskanselarij” [Discovery in the Reichschancellory] in De Waarheid, 11 July 1945. The brief item was boxed-in with a black border in a sans serif font, which was different from the font used in the rest of the newspaper so that readers could not miss it.
(25) In addition to villas at home and abroad, Van Meegeren, who was lavish with his money, also invested in fifteen country houses in Laren, where he lived in Netherlands from 1940 to 1943, and fifty-two properties including hotels and nightclubs, Frank Wynne, I Was Vermeer, p. 178. A discussion by an editorial group at Wikipedia concludes that Han van Meegeren could not have owned nightclubs; see Addendum A. This discussion raises points not previously considered or investigated, and the conclusion is more than likely the correct one. Kreuger speaks of Van Meegeren’s “vast wealth” from investments in stocks, real estate, jewelry, bank accounts, and art; apparently he also kept large amounts of cash on hand, Frederik H. Kreuger, Van Meegeren: An Annotated Bibliography: followed by Subjects for Further Research (Kreuger, 2008), p. 25.
(26) The fact that Van Meegeren fooled Hermann Goering into purchasing a fake Vermeer was used by Van Meegeren’s supporters and Dutch patriots to rehabilitate Van Meegeren’s reputation both during his incarceration before his trial and after his death. Even before his death, Van Meegeren went very quickly from being viewed as a despised collaborator to a Dutch folk hero whose forgery of Vermeer got the better of the hated and greedy Nazi Goering.
(27) Leon Vosters, e-mail in response to author’s query, 18 January 2009. Vosters has several web sites dedicated to Van Meegeren’s art and life; see http://hanvanmeegeren.webs.com/apps/photos. Praise for his work states: “Leon Vosters, who has assembled probably the world’s finest private collection of Van Meegeren’s legitimate work, gives a rare and insightful look at the real art of Han Van Meegeren, as well as a biographical sketch and a review of the literature on the master forger at this fascinating Dutch-English bilingual website: http://www.geocities.com/hanvanmeegerencollectie/indexenglish.html;” Jonathan Lopez at http://www.jonathanlopez.net/links.html. Vosters does not explain the personal dedication written by Van Meegeren to Hitler in the presentation copy of Van Meegeren’s Teekeningen 1. He has not said if he believes the dedication to be a true inscription by Van Meegeren or a forgery. We have yet to find the name of the Germans who were paid off although we cannot exclude that exceedingly small possibility. See ADDENDUM C.
(28) Arjen Ribbens, Jopie Breemer en het Jopiehol. Een bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van de Amsterdamse bohème (1906- 1914) (Ph.D. Diss., University of Amsterdam, 1984). This publication is the single-most important source of information about Jopie Breemer during his pre-World War I years. It has been impossible to find the whereabouts of Jopie’s son Erik Breemer who in 1998 was said to have been a medical doctor specializing in pulmonology. Ribbens says Erik Breemer died a few years ago, e-mail to the author, 12 November 2012.
(29) Kreuger has repeated insistently that Van Meegeren was not an anti-Semite; other Van Meegeren devotees also defend the artist against what they consider an unjust accusation. Kreuger cites Marijke van den Brandhof, Een vroege Vermeer uit 1937: achtergronden van leven en werken van de schilder/vervalser Han van Meegeren (Utrecht/Antwerp: Het Spectrum, 1979), originally her University of Amsterdam Dissertation, about which he states: “A considerable drawback is the negative tone of the book and the allegation that Han Van Meegeren was anti-Semitic. This accusation has been proven to be unwarranted (Kreuger 2004, p. 160; Kreuger 2007, p. 165), but is nevertheless repeated in later biographies. In this manner, Van den Brandhof has done much harm.” Kreuger, Van Meegeren: An Annotated Bibliography, p. 19. Of Frank Wynne, I Was Vermeer (London, 2006), with the same assertion about Van Meegeren’s anti-Semitism, Kreuger says: “This biography/novel follows the existing sources, but it also invents episodes and repeats the unfounded accusation of anti- Semitism. Because of this accusation, its inventions and the many factual errors, the book does more harm than good in terms of informing the general public.” Kreuger, Van Meegeren: An Annotated Bibliography, p. 21. It is difficult for a scholar to accept that the accusations were proved unwarranted when so little documentation is offered. Van Meegeren was evasive and stealthy in protecting himself and his wealth. He maintained relationships with Nazis, undoubtedly a stratagem to keep open the pipelines to Nazi officials who sought to buy art. In order for the accusation of Van Meegeren’s alleged anti-Semitism to be proven, unimpeachable, authentic and veracious documents and attestations must be found and examined by neutral scholars. I cannot see any other way to conclude whether Van Meegeren was or was not an anti-Semite. People still living that knew him have to stretch their memories too far back to assign their responses in the realm of reliability. Family, friends and admirers are invested with a desire to protect. No one has yet made an airtight case in either direction; while an airtight case may be impossible at this remote point in Van Meegeren’s history, there are other events in Van Meegeren’s life that contribute to viewing him as something of a veiled, casual anti-Semite who uttered no such comments himself but used others as stand-ins for his own protection. For example, Van Meegeren and his wife Jo attended the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and vacationed in German. Van Meegeren had a number of exhibitions in Germany. Van Meegeren associated for many years with many known vicious anti-Semites, among them his colleague Jan Ubink, editor at De Kemphaan, and Martien Beversluis, the poet in Teekeningen I yet Van Meegeren appeared to have some sort of relationship with Breemer of some years standing going back to the 1920s. What can be said of Van Meegeren was that he was an unyielding opportunist, ready to use anyone. Although he pursued wealth and social connections, he was sometimes attracted to outsiders, like the bohemian Jopie Breemer, and those who had lived on the margins, as Van Meegeren had to do early in his life. It would not be unlike Van Meegeren to paint the portrait of Jopie as insurance if Germany lost the war although the opposite conclusion could also be reached since he made a portrait study of Jopie around 1915. After Jopie’s portrait was painted it was hidden away.
(30) Kreuger, Han Van Meegeren, Meestervervalser, p. 105. That nephew may have been his sister Guusje’s son, Pim Polman- Tuin. How long the portrait remained in Wassenaar is not known in any public way, which is not to say that its ownership and whereabouts are not known; they are known to someone. In a later book, Kreuger said the portrait was hung in the house of Van Meegerens’ great-nephew, see n22 above. Without any scholarly documentation it is difficult to know where Kreuger has found this information other than his citations of names of persons he interviewed. Who did he interview and when? Why did the possession of the portrait change from a nephew to a great-nephew? What is the lineage of the great- nephew? An incomplete genealogy provided by Kreuger in A New Vermeer does not show the line of descent for this great- nephew.
(31) The first edition of Breemer’s poems was in 1913. The modern edition of De ontboezemingsbundel (Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 1998) has an introduction by the noted Dutch poet Gerrit Komrij. The cover of the 1998 edition bears the image of Van Meegeren’s portrait of “Jopie Breemer as a praying Jew.” A brief timeline for Van Meegeren and Jopie can only suggest when the two met: Han van Meegeren was born in 1889. Jopie set up the Jopie-hol in 1906 in Amsterdam and after several moves Jopie ultimately left Amsterdam and the Jopie-hol in 1913. In 1907 Van Meegeren was sent by his father to Delft to study architecture. During the following years, Van Meegeren was in school, graduated, got married (1912) and moved to his wife’s grandmother in Rijswijk, had his first child (1912), finished a course in drawing (1914) and moved with his family to Scheveningen. In 1913 Jopie left Amsterdam to live in the The Hague with his new wife. In 1914 the Jopie-hol has disappeared from Amsterdam with Jopie now living in The Hague. It is possible that the young Han somehow visited the Jopie-hol, but given that Han was still under the complete control of his father, his freedom to roam and explore was greatly restricted until he reached his majority. In 1915, Van Meegeren’s daughter is born in The Hague, Van Meegeren makes a drawing “De Talmud-lezer” (The Talmud Reader) which appears to be Jopie Breemer at about age forty. In 1918, Van Meegeren produces a “Portret-Studie” of Jopie Breemer. In 1919 Van Meegeren is accepted as a member of the Haagse Kunstkring. There is no definitive corroborating evidence of how and when Van Meegeren and Breemer first met but it is unlikely that it was at the Jopie-hol in Amsterdam. It is more likely they met at the Haagse Kunstkring ca. 1915. In 1921 Van Meegeren and Jopie travel for three months together through Italy.
(32) In an interview, Pierre Michon speaks of his admiration for the translation by Johan Stärcke (1882-1917) of Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror (1869). Michon say of Stärcke: “who died young, belonged to the core of Jopianen, friends of the Amsterdam bohemian poet Jopie Breemer….”, Rokus Hofstede, “Translatio! Tirades vertalersquestionnaire,” 1 May 2009. At http://www.hofhaan.nl/2009/rokus-hofstede/translatio-tirades-vertalersquestionnaire/.
(33) Frederik H. Kreuger, Han Van Meegeren Revisited. His Art & List of Works (Kreuger: 2010), p. 29. On p. 8 are two thumbnail photos of the Jopie Breemer portrait: one is framed and hanging on the wall of Van Meegeren’s sitting room but in which house is not known (Laren or Amsterdam?), and the other with Van Meegeren standing in a pose before it with a palette and brush in his hands. Kreuger includes Van Meegeren’s early Talmud Reader – a 1915 portrait listed as entry B252 on p. 9, which was exhibited at Van Meegeren’s 1917 exhibition as “no. 30” with the work date of “ ’15.” On p. 29, para 4, about the April-May 1917 exhibition: “Of his Talmud Reader it was said: ‘… a splendid and expressive drawing in which the exaggeration of the hands should not be seen as an error but as an accentuation of the pious gesture….’.” From the exhibit catalogue Tentoonstelling van schilderijen, acquarellen, en teekeningen door H. A. Van Meegeren (The Hague: Kunstzaal Pictura, 1917).
(34) H. de Boer, “Nieuew Stroomingen in de Hedendaagsche Schilderkunst,” De Cicerone, 1918, pp. 89-96. The image of Jopie Breemer is on p. 90. The author and editor is Carel Hendrik de Boer (1879-1949). De Boer and Van Meegeren worked together even while Han conducted a years-long affair with De Boer’s wife Johanna.
(35) Annette Bopp, André Presser – Der Ballettdirigent (Rüffer& Rub, 2008), p. 37. Born Andries Jacob Presser in 1933 to a Dutch-Jewish father and a half-Jewish mother, Presser experienced, as did thousands of Dutch citizens, serious deprivation and near-starvation during the German Occupation of the Netherlands.
(36) Wim van der Pas, Theo van der Pas, p. 101.
(37) Reported by music critic Winand van de Kamp, The Hague Courant, 29 October 2001 at www.Haagsecourant.nl.
(38) Het Vaderland, 31 December 1941. This issue, like every other newspaper permitted to publish by the German Occupation authorities, reported on Germany, Der Führer, and leading Nazi personalities as well as local news. The Occupation authorities set guidelines for Dutch newspapers that would ensure, they hoped, a “high degree of accommodation and subordination,” Gerhard Hirschfeld, Nazi Rule and Dutch Collaboration: The Netherlands Under German Occupation, 1940-45, trans. Louise Wilmot (London: Berg Publishers, 1989), p. 128. Most newspapers either complied or stopped publishing. Netherlands was attacked on 10 May 1940 with no casus belli declared by the Germans and surrendered about six days later. Netherlands suffered under a brutal occupation until 1945 including bombardment of its major cities and dikes first by the Germans and later by British and American air forces.
(39) Thea Ekker-van der Pas, Fax, 12 September 2012.
(40) Joseph “Jopie” Breemer (1875-1957) was a secular Dutch Jew whose limited output of poems are still published and read today. He was a Bohemian poet, actor and aphorist as well as a dance teacher, painter, and illustrator. He endeared himself to his friends and his readers with his warm-hearted and accessible poetry and his talent for nonsense rhymes. His collection of poems De ontboezemingsbundel (1913) [The Outpouring] was reissued in 1998, and he is found in many contemporary anthologies of Dutch poetry. While Van Meegeren made an oil portrait of Breemer titled Portrait of Jopie Breemer as a praying Jew ca. 1941, it isn’t clear who gave the portrait that title – Van Meegeren or someone else. The aging Breemer may have sat for his portrait in a prayer shawl; he is painted holding a partly opened book in his hands resting on his lap but no print is seen on the book to identify whether this is a prayer book. Breemer’s head is uncovered which is unusual for a religious Jew in the act of praying who would be wearing a yarmulke, the traditional skullcap worn by religious Jews. It is astonishing that Breemer would have endangered himself and Van Meegeren if the painting was discovered.
(41) Yvonne Steinmetz-Ardaseer, “The Creative Reception of William Shakespeare in the Netherlands: The Case of Arthur Van Schendel,” (M.Lit. Thesis, University of Birmingham, 1998), p. 34.
(42) Thea-Ekker van der Pas states: “We did know Han Van Meegeren, but he was not a family friend.” Fax, 12 September 2012.
(43) Klaus Mann, “Van Meegeren: Art’s Master Forger,” pp. 94-103, in Alexander Klein, ed., Grand Deception: the World’s Most Spectacular and Successful Hoaxes, Impostures, Ruses, and Frauds (Lippincott, 1955). As for Van Meegeren’s “book,” Mann was obviously referring to Teekeningen 1. The Mann article was originally published in Danish as “Affaeren Van Meegeren,” in Berlingske Aftenavis, Kopenhagen, 12 and 13 November 1947. Afterwards, the article appeared in an English translation as “The Double Life of Han Van Meegeren,” in a New York magazine Town & Country, vol. 102, no. 4305, February 1948, pp. 88-89, 111-113, 2 ill. Mann’s Town & Country article was later published in Alexander Klein, Grand Deception. The article was translated into German and published as “Das Doppelleben des Han Van Meegeren,” and appeared in the anthology Auf verlorenem Posten: Aufsätze, Reden, Kritiken, ed. Uwe Naumann and Michael Töteberg, (Rowohlt, 1994), pp. 439-448, and a note on p. 554. The article has made the rounds in a number of languages without any explanation or evidence about the statement that Theo van der Pas was a collaborator. Mann did not live his entire Netherlands exile from 1933 to 1936 continuously in Amsterdam. See Klaus Mann, “Les dessous de l’Affaire Han Van Meegeren,” L’Âge Nouveau. no. 29, 1948, pp.64-71: “Dans mon article ‘Les dessous de l’Affaire Han Van Meegeren’ (publié dans l’Age Nouveau (no.29), decrivant un des peintures de Van Meegeren, je partais du modèle – un pianiste hollandaise – comme ‘l’un ardent collaborateurs” que ses patriots, après la liberation, avaient exclu pour deux ans des salles de concert. Cette remarque était basée sur des renseignements que j’avais obtenu durant mon séjour à Amsterdam, de sources….” (In my article ‘The Underside of the Han Van Meegeren Case’ (published in New Age no. 29), describing one of Van Meegeren’s paintings, I cite the model – a Dutch pianist – as ‘an ardent collaborator’ as after the liberation its [the Netherlands] patriots had excluded him for two years from the concert halls. This observation was based on information I received during my stay in Amsterdam, sources….”) After a thorough search through the literature by and about Klaus Mann, there is no mention at all of these “sources” anywhere. Mann’s accusation against Van der Pas has a vituperative quality that went far beyond mere reportage. There was gossip and accusation in the post-war years in the Netherlands about who had and had not registered with the Kultuurkamer and who had or had not collaborated in general. This perturbation in Dutch society about who was on the “right” side or the “wrong” side of the German occupation as collaborators continues today.
(44) Klaus Mann entry in Wikipedia; Mann’s exile in Netherlands is briefly discussed in Luc Devoldere, “A Convenient Desert: The Low Countries as a Refuge for the Spirit,” in The Low Countries, Jaargang 9, 2001, pp. 12-54, Yearbook of the Flemish-Netherlands Foundation “Stichting Ons Erfdeel.”
(45) Thea Ekker-van der Pas, Fax, 12 September 2012.
(46) Philomen B. Lelieveldt, Voor en achter het voetlicht: Musici en de arbeidsverhoudingen in het kunst- en amusementsbedrijf in Nederland, 1918-1940 (Ph.D. Diss., University of Utrecht, 1998).
(47) D.H. Schram, “An Unfinished Chapter: The Second World War and the Holocaust in Dutch Literature,“ The Low Countries, Year 2, 1994-1995, pp. 190-203.
(48) “in 1942 an organization was founded, the ‘Dutch Chamber of Culture’, which all artists – provided they were of non- Jewish descent – were invited to join. Those who had not joined would henceforth no longer be allowed to engage in artistic activities.” From Piet Calis, Het ondergronds verwachten. Schrijvers en tijdschriften tussen 1941 en 1945, (Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1989), cited at Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren (DBNL) at
http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/cali002onde01_01/cali002onde01_01_0016.php. This applied to all those in artistic and cultural activities, and were divided into “guilds”: Film; Architecture, Fine Arts and Crafts; Theater and Dance; Literature; Music; and the Press. The full text of the twenty-seven articles announcing enactment of the Kultuurkamer was published in the newspapers, see De Courant, 26 November 1941, p. 2, to take effect the following year.
(49) Pauline Micheels, “Classical Music Life During the German Occupation,” In De Tweede Wereldoorlog in Muziek, Nederlands Muziek Instituut, at http://www.wo2-muziek.nl/nl/Landen/Overzicht%20Nederland/Organisatie%20concertleven/.
(50) An interesting glimpse into the Jopie-hol and its era is provided in Marjan Groot, Vrouwen in de vormgeving in Nederland 1880-1940 (Rotterdam: Publisher 010, 2007). While her research is based on Arjen Ribbens’ thesis, Groot includes a group photo at the Jopie-hol dated ca. 1912. The young men and women are all well dressed and look like any group of educated middle-class people. The photo’s caption does not say if Jopie Breemer is in the group. A piano keyboard can be seen at the photo’s far left. The Jopie-hol apparently helped to nurture one very talented songwriter of cabaret chansons who became well known as a writer and singer went by the stage name of Ed Coenraads (see Personalia).
(51) Jan Ubink, “Wit en Zwart” Een Beschouwing van den Kunstenaar Van Meegeren,” Haagsch Maandblad, 15 May 1942, vol. 19, no.5, p.246.
(52) That the portrait was once owned by H.H. (Hans Heinrich) Thyssen (1921-2002) is a startling fact. Given the nature and size of the art collection inherited from his father Baron Heinrich Thyssen and enlarged by H.H. Thyssen, why would the younger Thyssen have owned a rather ordinary portrait of an unknown Dutch bohemian Jew other than the fact that it was made by Han van Meegeren? In 1948, after the death of Baron Heinrich Thyssen (1875-1947), the Baron’s art collection of 532 paintings was divided among four heirs. Hans Heinrich’s portion of this art inheritance totaled 363 paintings, David R.L. Litchfield, The Thyssen Art Macabre (London: Quartet Books, 2006), p. 221. Further research is needed to determine whether the portrait of Jopie Breemer was in this portion of the collection or was purchased subsequently and then sold. To date no evidence has emerged, including in Litchfield’s book. Baron Heinrich Thyssen bought Van Meegeren’s forgery “Girl in the Blue Hat” after it had been authenticated as a Vermeer. The painting has become known as the Greta Garbo Vermeer; Lopez, The Man Who Made Vermeers, pp. 105-106, 107; Baron Thyssen ultimately returned it to the well-known gallery that sold it to him, p. 241. Lopez later corrected this to say: “Baron Thyssen’s Vermeer was The Girl in Antique Costume, not the Girl in the Red Hat, which is a genuine Vermeer in the Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington.” Response to Marco Grassi, review of The Man Who Made Vermeers, 2 November 2008, online at http://www.newcriterion.com/ajax/CommentP._dev.cfm?ArticleID=3950&StartFrom=. Lopez say that “The Girl in Antique Costume” is a variation on “The Girl With the Red Hat” and maintains that The Girl in Antique Costume is a Van Meegeren fake.
(53) Frederik H. Kreuger, Han Van Meegeren, Meestervervalser, p. 34. In the Illustration Sources on p. 188, the portrait “Talmoed Jopie” is listed in an auction catalogue owned by J. Th. Bakker, Deventer. The book was published in 2004. Kreuger has stated that Bakker “definitely doesn’t own the reader,” E-mail to the author, 16 October 2012. Again the question is raised: where is the 1941 portrait of Jopie Breemer? And did Bakker in fact have possession of the portrait at any time?
(54) E. d’Oliveira, De jongere generatie: Gesprekken met vertegenwoordigers van de nieuwere richting in onze literatuur; tevens een enquete naar enkele beginselen in ons nationaal geestelijk leven (The younger generation: Interviews with representatives of the newer direction in our literature, also a survey of some principles in our national spiritual life) (Amsterdam, 1920). Text is available at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10514/10514-8.txt.
(55) Het Vaderland, 25 February 1944 and De Gooi- en Eemlander, 22 February 1944. His 70th would be on March 1.
I hereby give my express permission to ROB SCHOLTE to reproduce online my article “Han van Meegeren and his Portraits of Theo van der Pas and Jopie Breemer.” Kindly note that the article carries the author’s copyright and was originally published at http://www.janetwasserman.com.
s/ Janet I. Wasserman, New York, New York, USA