'A kiss from Does'. The RKD exhibits postcards by Modernists at TEFAF

From 7–15 March the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History is showing at TEFAF Maastricht (stand 728). Visitors who would like to know more about art from the Netherlands are welcome to visit us there. The RKD will be showing highlights from the Modernist Archives, including postcards sent by Theo van Doesburg and El Lissitzky.

Modernist archives

Early in 2020 the RKD, with support from Metamorfoze, the national programme for the preservation of paper heritage, started work on the digitisation of a unique collection of Modernist archives. These include the archives of distinctive and innovative Dutch artists, collectors and art critics from the period 1910-1960. The Modernist archives give a lively picture of the birth and development of modern art in the Netherlands. The artists of De Stijl, Dada and the Bauhaus created a wide and international network. Besides correspondence, the archives contain a great deal of special interest material, such as photos, manuscripts, journals and sketchbooks.

'Dear Tiltil'

The RKD is showing letters from Til Brugman's archive. This poet translated articles for the periodical De Stijl, organised exhibitions and helped artists to sell works of art. She had frequent contact with her many artist friends, writing letters in several languages. At TEFAF you can see letters written to her by El Lissitzky, Theo and Nelly van Doesburg as well as Kurt and Helma Schwitters.

The correspondence on show is not just about art. In 1923 Theo van Doesburg writes from Paris, recommending a bar which has a 'jazz band' and 'absinthe for 1.75'. Til Brugman was then living with the singer Sienna Masthoff on the Ligusterstraat in The Hague. Van Doesburg designed an interior for their house, and he refers to this on the card, asking: 'How is the room looking?' The card ends: 'A kiss from Does'.

El Lissitzky and a Rietveldchair

Another striking letter to Til Brugman was written from Germany by the Russian avant-garde artist  El Lissitzky. Using a long thin slip of red paper, cut on the diagonal, he announces that he is ready for a holiday. He looks forward to Til and Sienna coming to Hanover, and hopes that they can bring along a chair that Rietveld has made for him: 'Today a letter arrived from Rietveld. He writes that he has made me a chair; it can remain at Sienna's until I come myself, but perhaps it would be better if you bring it, Sienna – does it come apart?' Lissitzky's last sentence suggests that the chair can be disassembled for transport.

1. Postcard from Theo van Doesburg to Til Brugman 25, 1923. RKD Collection
2. Left to right: Helma Schwitters, Nelly van Moorsel, Kurt Schwitters and Theo van Doesburg in Helena Milius’s living room, Klimopstraat 18, The Hague, early 1923. RKD Collection
3. Postcard from Nelly van Doesburg to Til Brugman, 22 april 1923. Collection RKD

TEFAF Maastricht 2020

TEFAF Maastricht, the world's foremost art and antiques fair, presents objects of unequalled quality and provides a podium for the most important art dealers and specialists from all over the world. As a knowledge institute and member of the Kring Rijksmusea (National Museums Circle), the RKD does not deal in art. But visitors who wish to learn more about art, in the broadest sense of the word, are welcome to visit the RKD stand (stand 728).

The 32nd TEFAF Maastricht will be held at the MECC Maastricht from 7 to 15 March 2020. For more information visit