Centraal Museum

Centraal Museum entrance
Centraal Museum entrance

Photo: Ernst Moritz

Centraal Museum, the oldest municipal museum in the Netherlands, has been housed in this medieval cloister on the Nicolaaskerkhof since 1921. It contributes to the name Museum Quarter, given to this district in the centre of Utrecht. At one stage, the St Agnes Convent was (partially) used as an orphanage, military stables and psychiatric hospital.

The ‘Stedelijk Museum van Oudheden’ (Municipal Museum of Antiquities), predecessor of the Centraal Museum, had previously been housed in an elegant mansion on Biltstraat. Founded in 1830, it originally only filled a few rooms on the top floor of this Utrecht town hall.

Although the Centraal Museum unmistakably has its roots in Utrecht history and would not readily deny these, the museum prefers to look to the horizon: to the future and to national and international trends. Current fashion, design and visual art are high on the agenda, together with exchange of ideas and debate. 

The Centraal Museum collection consists of more than 50,000 objects, which cannot easily be placed under one umbrella. This diverse collection, passing from discipline to discipline and through different periods and styles, ranges from contemporary drawings to historical costumes, and from abstract paintings to antiquities, but also contains the Centraal Museum Chair by Richard Hutten (1999) and the Utrecht Ship (ca 1000).       

Quite naturally, Centraal Museum is home to Utrecht artists Dick Bruna and Gerrit Rietveld. However, works by Utrecht Caravaggists Gerard Honthorst and Hendrick ter Brugghen – followers of the Italian painter Caravaggio (1571-1610) – just as equally provide the museum with that international seal of approval. Together with Abraham Bloemaert and Jan van Scorel, these artists took the traditional art in North-Holland to a far greater level.

Another good reason for making your way to the museum is Pyke Koch’s magical surrealism, and also the surrealism of Joop Moesman. The latter was responsible for Utrecht being the epicentre of surrealism during the thirties and forties of the 20th century.

With a little luck the Centraal Museum has also created a studio, based on the idea that seeing and ‘creating yourself’ work nicely together.   

Photo: Robert Glas
Photo: Robert Glas

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