• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2806

    Twentieth Century Art

    2 December 2008, Amsterdam

  • Lot 1

    Harm Kamerlingh Onnes (DUTCH, 1893-1985)

    The beach of Katwijk aan Zee

    Price Realised  


    Harm Kamerlingh Onnes (DUTCH, 1893-1985)
    The beach of Katwijk aan Zee
    signed with initials and dated 'HKO 19' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    38 x 47.5 cm.

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    Pre-Lot Text


    Willem Ditmar: Architect in business - business man in Art

    Willem Pieter Adriaan Ditmar (1910-1981) undoubtedly contributed to the Dutch cultural landscape. It was under his aegis that Unilever's packaging department came up with the classic designs for Unox smoked sausages, Bona margarine and Vinolia soap. Few people know, however, that he left yet another Dutch legacy: an art collection with a unique overview of the work of Dutch artists Harm Kamerlingh Onnes and Herman Berserik.

    Art & Business
    Willem Ditmar was trained as an architect; his luxury houses are still very sought after in the surroundings of Utrecht. A sociable character, Willem befriended many of his clients. In their houses he saw the works they put on 'his' walls - knowing very little about art at the time, he fell in love immediately, obtaining his first work of art in 1937.
    Soon after, however, war broke out and the demand for spacious villas evaporated. Ditmar joined Unilever and moved to Rotterdam. There he met Leen van Zanten, whose gallery featured the work of Willem Mesdag, Isaac Israels and a wealth of smaller French masters. The two men became close friends, and, after Ditmar had absorbed part of Van Zanten's vast knowledge, business partners. In the sixties, Ditmar was promoted to a position with an international profile - works of art he brought from his business trips (America, Japan, France) he would often sell via Van Zanten's gallery. Art and business met in yet another way: to decorate the working space for his employees, Ditmar started what would become known as the Unilever Collection.

    Harm Kamerlingh Onnes & Herman Berserik
    After Van Zanten passed away in 1964, Ditmar found a new sparring partner in Miep Eijffinger from Martinus Liernur Gallery in The Hague. Through Miep, he was introduced to the work of contemporary artists Kees Andrea, Jaap Nanninga, Harm Kamerlingh Onnes and Herman Berserik. With the last two Ditmar built a personal relationship. Ditmar would not part with any of their works, even when prices rose steeply. Indeed he went into considerable length to obtain a representative overview of their entire career. Not a man to rest until he considered a mission successful, the scope of works by Harm Kamerlingh Onnes and Berserik presented in his collection is truly unique and not found anywhere else - museums included.
    The Willem Ditmar collection is a fitting testimony to a man who, thanks to his perseverance, wit and a very personal taste, made it as an architect in the business world and a business man in the art world.