The dream: a museum
In 1913 the first floor of the headquarters of Wm. H. Müller & Co. on the Lange Voorhout was converted into a museum. Visits were arranged by appointment. In the various rooms visitors could become acquainted Helene Kröller-Müller’s art collection.
Meanwhile she had come up with an even grander ideal: a great museum with an adjoining private residence, designed especially for her collection. Designs were submitted by several architects, including Peter Behrens and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The Kröllers had full-scale models of the designs built in wood and painted canvas at the desired location so they could judge them properly.
Helene Kröller-Müller was not convinced and turned her attention to the Veluwe, a wooded region in the eastern Netherlands. Over the years the couple bought almost 6,000 hectares of land there. Architect H.P. Berlage designed the St Hubert Hunting Lodge in the area for the couple, which was completed in 1920. Berlage also drafted a design for the museum building, but the collaboration between him and the Kröllers broke down.
Henry van de Velde was invited to carry on with the project. The Belgian architect worked almost six years on a design for the so-called Great Museum and a start was actually made on laying the foundations. Custom-cut stones were brought in on a railway line. But when Wm H. Müller & Co. ran into financial difficulties because of the international recession, construction had to come to a halt.
The building of the Great Museum was never resumed. In 1935 a smaller museum was started near the old foundations (still visible on the border between the woods and the dunes). This museum was also designed by Henry van de Velde. The building was called a ‘transitional museum’ because it eventually would be replaced by the Great Museum.
The project was initiated by the Dutch state, to whom Helene Kröller-Müller had presented her collection a few years before. In 1938 the Kröller-Müller Museum opened its doors. Helene Kröller-Müller furnished it as her ‘museum-home’ and served as the first director until her death in 1939.