Oskar Reinhart Collection in Winterthur

Give me a basket! Picnics have been all the rage since Corona. Yet the idea of a picnic in the countryside is not exactly new. Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe was a popular motif in French art at the time of the Impressionists. What is new, however, is the idea of inviting museum visitors to the museum’s own garden with a beautifully packed picnic basket thematically linked to the works in the collection. With a fluffy blanket, cushions and a culinary basket, one chooses a spot under old fruit trees. Having just admired the works of Manet, Renoir or an early Picasso, you now let your gaze wander over the wild flower meadow and excitedly unpack your picnic basket. This idea was born in the Oskar Reinhart Collection long before Corona and is now developing into a real visitor favorite with Corona.

Bestens gewappnet für ein Picknick im Park. Angela Berg macht sich auf den Weg - den historischen Weg - auf dem Oskar Reinhart durch seinen Garten spazierte. Heute sind dort an drei Stellen Plätze unter alten Obstbäumen freigemäht / © Foto: Georg Berg
Perfectly equipped for a picnic in the park. Angela Berg sets out on the path – the historic path – along which Oskar Reinhart walked through his garden. Today, spots under old fruit trees have been mowed free in three places there / © Photo: Georg Berg

Art instead of colonial goods

The Swiss art collector Oskar Reinhart enjoyed an afternoon coffee in his garden. No wonder; at the end of the 19th century, his family dominated 80 percent of the global coffee trade at times by trading colonial goods. Later, they were big players in the cotton trade. Thus, in his early twenties, the young Oskar Reinhart was already able to commit himself to the career of an art collector. However, he was not allowed to withdraw completely from the family business until he was 39. So in 1924 he acquired the villa at Römerholz in Winterthur and made it his residence and the first repository of his collection.

Die Portraits Anna und Johannes Cuspinian von Lukas Cranach d.Ä. in der Villa am Römerholz, erbaut 1915 im Stil einer Direktoren-Villa. Ausdrucksstark sind ebenfalls die Parkettarbeiten / © Foto: Georg Berg
The portraits Anna and Johannes Cuspinian by Lukas Cranach the Elder in the Villa am Römerholz, built in 1915 in the style of a director’s villa. The parquetry is also expressive / © Photo: Georg Berg

The treasure in Römerholz

Once you have arrived at the elevated villa on the outskirts of Winterthur, walking through the exhibition rooms you quickly get the feeling that you have discovered a real insider’s tip. All doubts that had been lingering on the half-hour train ride from Zurich are gone. This excursion is worth it! Oskar Reinhart’s great interest as a collector was in the Impressionists. He acquired most of his works in the 1920s and 1930s. There is a high density of Renoirs, Manets and Cezannes in the beautifully paneled rooms with stunning parquet work. There was a time, says deputy museum director Katja Baumhoff, when there was one Renoir for every 1,000 inhabitants of Winterthur.

Der Galeriebau der Sammlung Oskar Reinhart. Hier treten alte Meister in den Dialog mit französischen Impressionisten. Die Hängung entspricht den Vorgaben ihres Sammlers / © Foto: Georg Berg
The gallery building of the Oskar Reinhart Collection. Here, old masters enter into a dialogue with French impressionists. The hanging corresponds to the specifications of its collector / © Photo: Georg Berg

But Reinhart also collected Old Masters such as Cranach, Bassano and Goya. In their works he saw a connection to the painterly-aesthetic quality of the Impressionists. His ambition was always to acquire only the best masterpieces available at his time. His basic commercial training helped to realize this ambitious goal. Reinhart brought together groups of works of European art that were among the best in the world.

Katja Baumhoff, stellv. Leiterin der Sammlung Oskar Reinhart, erklärt, wie die Idee zu den Picknick-Körben entstanden ist / © Foto: Georg Berg
Katja Baumhoff, deputy director of the Oskar Reinhart Collection, explains how the idea for the picnic baskets came about / © Photo: Georg Berg
Picnic Talk (3’03”) Angela Berg and Katja Baumhoff, deputy director and research assistant of the Oskar Reinhart Collection in Winterthur

Give me a basket! Picnicking is the trend

With a picnic basket á la Claude Monet, stocked with baguette, cheese, seasonal fruits, cold cucumber soup, as well as coffee and pastries, it’s easy to stay under the old apple tree. Katja Baumhoff explains that the idea for the picnic in the park was by no means conceived because of Corona calamities. It simply suited the house: because the garden was a favorite place of Oskar Reinhart, because the collection with the paintings of the Impressionists exemplifies this feeling, and because the villa with the garden is also to be understood as a total work of art and therefore the garden was to be opened up more for visitors.

Hier wartet ein echter Claude Monet! Ein Picknick Korb mit Baguette, Käse, einer kalten Gurkensuppe, Obst, Gebäck und Kaffee trägt den Namen des französischen Malers. Ganz im Sinne der französischen Kunst des Dejeuner de l’herbe geht es auch in der Villa am Römerholz raus ins Grüne / © Foto: Georg Berg
A real Claude Monet is waiting here! A picnic basket with baguette, cheese, a cold cucumber soup, fruit, pastries and coffee bears the name of the French painter. In the spirit of the French art of dejeuner de l’herbe, the Villa am Römerholz also goes out into the countryside / © Photo: Georg Berg

As picnickers, you can approach art in a culinary way in pairs or as a group. While Claude Monet, as described, comes across as typically French, Pieter Bruegel’s picnic basket is far more hearty with boiled eggs, bacon, salami and beer. Pablo Picasso brings olives, gazpacho, manchego and chorizo, while Pierre-Auguste Renoir has a classic coffee and cake. If desired, the baskets can be upgraded with wine or prosecco. The Oskar Reinhart Collection has seen more than a 100% increase in picnic bookings since the start of the Corona Epidemic, which requires visitors to book at least 24 hours in advance of their arrangement in the park.

Social Distancing among Old Masters

In the exhibition rooms of the Oskar Reinhart Collection, the third security concept is now in operation. Katja Baumhoff is glad that they were able to go from the 2-meter rule to 1.50 meters in the building. Nevertheless, for some smaller interstitial spaces, this means that the visitor is alone here with the Impressionists.

Mancher Raum der Sammlung Oskar Reinhart lässt nach dem Sicherheitskonzept aufgrund der Corona-Pandemie nur einen Besucher zu / © Foto: Georg Berg
Some rooms in the Oskar Reinhart Collection only allow one visitor according to the security concept due to the Corona pandemic / © Photo: Georg Berg

Travel restrictions also for works of art

At first, Oskar Reinhart decreed that the artworks in his collection should not be lent to other art houses. But more than 50 years after his death, the house is opening up to loans. However, planned art exhibitions around the world are currently being postponed. Valuable art never travels alone. Lockdowns and travel warnings make it almost impossible to organize extensive shows of works. For example, the major retrospective on Goya at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel has been postponed until October 2021, and with it the journey of Still Life with Three Slices of Salmon from Winterthur to Basel.

Das Stilleben mit drei Lachsscheiben hat Francisco de Goya vor über 200 Jahren gemalt. Perspektive und Lichteffekte sind bemerkenswert / © Foto: Georg Berg
The Still Life with Three Salmon Slices was painted by Francisco de Goya over 200 years ago. Perspective and light effects are remarkable / © Photo: Georg Berg

Instead of showing Goya’s works, the Fondation Beyeler in Basel has extended its highly successful exhibition of works by American painter Edward Hopper until the end of September 2020. Corona curiosities can be observed here as well. While the art presents itself, its viewer masks himself.

Kuriose Situationen im Museum der Fondation Beyerler: Maskerade rund um Edward Hopper / © Foto: Georg Berg
Curious situations in the museum of the Fondation Beyerler: masquerade around Edward Hopper / © Photo: Georg Berg

Further Information

The Oskar Reinhart Collection in the Villa am Römerholz
https://www.roemerholz.chDas museum is easily accessible by train from Zurich. From Winterthur train station there are connections by public bus or the museum shuttle. Walk from the station in about 20 minutes walking time.

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Costs for entrance fees and picnic were not charged to us

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