In the spring of 2013, I drove with curator Paul Knolle across the Netherlands and Flanders to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Shortly before, we had planned three wonderful exhibitions for our Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede with Antwerp museum director Paul Huvenne. In 2013 and 2014 we would successively show the most important masters of Flemish Expressionism, Flemish Baroque and the Northern Renaissance. We started with the 20th century expressionists, then we showed the 17th century baroque and we ended with the 15th century renaissance. A triptych that took us further and further back in time.
During that car ride, we cheerfully came up with a whole series of new ideas. The most far-reaching ambition was an exhibition on six centuries of European painting, through which we wanted to shed light on European history.
Art history as cultural history. After all, for us art was and is not something that is separate from developments in a society, but a clear exposure of it. Documents and history books tell us about events and what happened, but art helps us understand how people thought, what they valued and what they aspired to. If the human imagination consists of people giving form and meaning to the world around us, then art is one of the freest and most associative forms of that imagination.