From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Helene Kröller-Müller, (February 11, 1869 – December 14, 1939) was one of the first European women to put together a major art collection.
She was born Helene Emma Laura Juliane Müller at Template:Link, Essen, Germany, into a wealthy industrialist family. Her father, Wilhelm Müller, owned Wm. H. Müller & Co., a prosperous supplier of raw materials to the mining and steel industries. She married Dutch shipping and mining tycoon Anton Kröller in 1888 and used both surnames in accordance with Dutch tradition.
She studied under Henk Bremmer in 1906-1907. As she was one of the wealthiest women in the Netherlands at the time, Bremmer recommended that she form an art collection. In 1907, she began her collection with the painting Train in a Landscape by Paul Gabriël. Subsequently, Helene Kröller-Müller became an avid art collector, and one of the first people to recognise the genius of Vincent van Gogh. She eventually amassed more than 90 van Gogh paintings and 185 drawings, one of the world's largest collections of the artist's work, second only to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. She also bought more than 400 works by Dutch artist Bart van der Leck, but his popularity did not take off like van Gogh's. Kröller-Müller also collected works by other modern artists, such as paintings and works on paper by Picasso, Fernand Léger, Diego Rivera, George Seurat, Juan Gris, and Piet Mondrian. However, Bremmer advised her not to buy A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat, which turned out to be an important icon of 20th century art. Also, she steered away from artists of her native Germany, whose work she found "insufficiently authoritative."
On a trip to Florence in June 1910, she conceived the idea of creating a museum-house. From 1913 onwards parts of her collection were open to the public; until the mid 1930s her exhibition hall in The Hague was one of the very rare places where one could see more than a few works of modern art. In 1928, Anton and Helene created the Kröller-Müller Foundation to protect the collection and the estates. In 1935, they donated to the Dutch people their entire collection totaling approximately 12,000 objects, on condition that a large museum be built in the gardens of her park. Held in the care of the Dutch government, the Kröller-Müller Museum was opened in 1938 near the town of Otterlo in the Netherlands. Due to the threat of war, plans for a lavish museum were never implemented, but once the war was over it was possible to construct the relatively understated but well-lit modern exhibition extension, opened in 1977, that now houses much of the collection.