An early champion of modern art, the Dutch painter and critic Conrad Kickert (or Kikkert) played a key role in bringing Cubism to the Netherlands. In particular, he initiated and financed the juried international exhibition society known as Moderne Kunstkring (Modern Art Circle), which was founded in Amsterdam on November 28, 1910. The group, which included the artists Jan Toorop, Jan Sluyters, and Piet Mondrian, promoted close dialogue and interchange between French and avant-garde circles through organized exhibitions that presented the newest French artistic trends to the Dutch public.
Moderne Kunstkring’s first show was held at the Stedelijk Museum in the fall of 1911. It included paintings by Paul Cézanne, André Derain, and Henri Le Fauconnier, but, most important, it introduced Cubism to Holland. Among the early Cubist works featured in this exhibition were Pablo Picasso’s Portrait of Clovis Sagot (1909; Hamburger Kunsthalle) and Georges Braque’s Trees at L’Estaque (1908; The Metropolitan Museum, Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection). The latter was purchased by Kickert and offered as a loan to the Rijksmuseum in December 1911 (where it remained until July 1926); it was the first Cubist work to be shown in a Dutch public collection. In a review of the 1913 Salon des Indépendants published in Montjoie! on March 18, Guillaume Apollinaire praised the progressiveness of the Rijksmuseum while scolding French officials for ridiculing Cubism. Subsequent shows organized by the Moderne Kunstkring were held in 1912 and 1913; however, the activities of the original group ceased in 1914 when its fourth exhibition was canceled as World War I began (the original group dissolved in 1916). In 1915 Kickert renamed the society the Genootschap van Kunstenaren Moderne Kunstkring (Society of Artists Modern Art Circle).
Kickert began acquiring art for his own collection in 1910 when he was living in both Paris and Zandvoort. That same year, he was introduced to the Tuesday soirées of the French Symbolist poet Paul Fort. Held at Closerie des Lilas, attendees included artists, critics, and writers who frequented the restaurant as well as the international circle that gathered regularly at the Café du Dôme. By 1922 his art collection had grown to include about one hundred paintings, works on paper, and sculpture by international artists who reflected the interests of the Moderne Kunstkring. Kickert also owned a significant number of canvases by Le Fauconnier, with whom he maintained a close friendship and whose work he helped promote in the Netherlands beginning in the early 1910s. His considerable collection of Dutch modern art was exhibited publicly in 1915 (in his own house), and in 1934–35, Kickert donated some of his collection to the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.
A self-taught artist, Kickert was influenced by Cubism, particularly Le Fauconnier, but he broke with the movement shortly before World War I. After 1913 he returned to a more figurative style in his landscapes, still lifes, and portraits, which were executed with a palette knife. Kickert exhibited regularly at the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne from 1910 to the 1920s. He was also a prolific critic and writer whose numerous texts appeared in periodicals and reviews, including the Haarlemsche Dagblad, Onze Kunst, De Telegraaf, and Elsevier.
For more information, see
van Adrichem, Jan. “The Introduction of Modern Art in Holland: Picasso as pars pro toto, 1910–1930.” Simiolus
21, no. 3 (1992): 162–211.
Daix, Pierre, and Joan Rosselet. Picasso: The Cubist Years, 1907–1916. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings and Related Works. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979.
Conrad Kickert, 1882–1965. Exh. cat. Pont-Aven, France: Musée de Pont-Aven, 1997.
For further information on Conrad Kickert, see the Archive Anne Gard-Kickert (the painter’s daughter), Paris.