In BLOCKBUSTER, the solo exhibition by Marcel van Eeden, the artist is devoting attention to the painter and graphic artist from Baden, Hans Thoma (1839 – 1924) and his little-known journey in 1898 through the Netherlands. Van Eeden illustrates and tracks this journey through a series of drawings, monumental canvases and photographs.
Van Eeden’s focus on Thoma’s travels brings to light not only the great cultural event of the year 1898, namely the first extensive exhibition of Rembrandt in the Netherlands at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in the coronation year (Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands), but also the reception of Rembrandt in the German language-space.
An important focal point here is the book Rembrandt als Erzieher (Rembrandt as Educator), conceived as a provocative German national cultural theory. Its author, Julius Langbehn (1851-1907), talks about the supposed intellectual, political and cultural decline in the German Empire due to Enlightenment and urbanization. He propagated a renewal of German society through art, for which he appropriated Rembrandt as a mystical figure and the idealized German artist.
Van Eeden taps into the deliberately overlooked close connection and friendship between Thoma, a painter of unassuming homeland pictures and idyllic landscapes and Langhben, one of the leading Völkisch nationalist art theoreticians and anti-Semites of his era. He reflects on the correspondence between the two and their extensive agreement concerning the cultural problems of their time. Thoma was also linked to the nucleus of proto-national-socialist anti-Semites like Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Cosima Wagner and Paul de Lagarde.
In the catalogue 1898, published on the occasion of the Hans Thoma Preis which Marcel van Eeden was awarded recently, Van Eeden brings to light the conflicts between Thoma’s sociocultural worldview and the fundamental values of the contemporary German state.