Stedelijk Museum Schiedam acquires works by Lotti van der Gaag

Thus strengthening the position of this influential Cobra artist.

On International Women’s Day, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam enriches the collection with no fewer than nineteen works by Cobra artist Lotti van der Gaag. These include three paintings that were purchased with the help of the Mondriaan Fund: Festival d’Amour (1967), Adam et Eve Chassés aux Paradis (1965) and an untitled work from 1974. Thanks to a generous donation, the painting Rouge et Jaune (1978) was also acquired. The museum will also receive fifteen early drawings on long-term loan. All acquired works come from Isis van Bohemen, the daughter of the artist. They were on display until 8th January  2023 in the exhibition Lotti van der Gaag. Festival of Love in the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam.

To Paris
​Lotti van der Gaag (1923-1999) started her artist career at the Free Academy in The Hague, to which she was affiliated until 1949. Halfway through the last century she left for Paris to become an apprentice to her inspirer Ossip Zadkine. She shares a studio space with Karel Appel and Corneille, two Dutch members of the international Cobra group. Van der Gaag started painting around 1960. Initially in a dark color palette with raw materials, following the art informal and material painting that were in vogue in France at the time. During this time, she also made the work Adam et Eve Chassés aux Paradis (1965). Later on, when she starts working in a more colorful way, she continues to experiment with shapes and materials. For example, she sometimes uses the back of a spoon to make lines in the paint or sticks buttons on her canvases, as in the work Festival d’Amour from 1967. Love, conflict, passion and sorrow: in Lotti’s colorful paintings and drawings van der Gaag, all possible human relationships pass by.

Imaginative human and animal figures
Lotti van der Gaag draws all her life, in chalk, charcoal and ink. The fifteen drawings that the museum is now adding to the collection are made with dark Siberian chalk. With this she sketches all kinds of primeval animals: creatures with both human and animal characteristics. With a few powerful lines, they each get their own character. Her sculptures from the 1950s are, almost as spatial translations of drawings from the same period, closely linked to this language of form.

About the frequently recurring imaginative human and animal figures, Cobra expert Willemijn Stokvis said in January 2023 during a lecture in the museum, ‘Imaginary human beings that are so intertwined that they seem almost inseparable. There are eyes everywhere, hearts everywhere, hands everywhere and threads that make connections. One’s thigh is the other’s arm. She painted this incomprehensible, nightmarish world that would not let go of her in bright, light, cheerful colors, but the facial expression of the human beings is usually not exactly cheerful.’

Cobra art
Lotti van der Gaag is often mentioned in the same breath as the Cobra movement. This group of artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam existed between 1948 and 1951 and is inspired by the intuitive style of children’s drawings and outsider art. Although she never participated in Cobra exhibitions during the existence of the movement, Van der Gaag is nowadays presented as a Cobra artist. There is a clear relationship and mutual influence in the work of the artists.

Restore balance
​Stedelijk Museum Schiedam gives priority to acquiring works by women artists and artists of color, because this work is still underrepresented in museums. Lotti van der Gaag’s new acquisitions fit into this line and follow the purchase of two bronze sculptures in 2019. Van der Gaag himself once said: ‘Almost all men like it when their wives draw, paint, sculpt a little, but it should stay with a sweet hobby.’ Cobra expert Willemijn Stokvis agrees that it is only in the last ten years that we have paid more attention to the oeuvres of important female artists. They were given little room, especially within the influential avant-garde movements, which were dominated by men and macho-like manifestos. Yet it was precisely artists such as Van der Gaag who brought the greatest innovation with their work.   

8th March 2023