its collectors, its artists


Hedy and Arthur Hahnloser began collecting the art of ‘Les Nabis’, a group of French Post-Impressionist artists, long before they had achieved any kind of fame. The Hahnlosers often travelled to Paris, where they purchased works recommended to them by their friends, the artists. In this way, they introduced the art of Bonnard, Vuillard, Vallotton and others to a Switzerland where modernism was still controversial. The works by the Nabis found their own new home at the Villa Flora in Winterthur, a building specially designed and extended for Arthur and Hedy by the architect Rittmeyer, and it was not long before the Villa’s hand-made wallpaper was covered with paintings and its purpose-designed garden decorated with sculptures. The collectors opened their doors to the artists; the artists spent their summers there, and the Villa Flora was turned into a Gesamtkunstwerk.

In 1995, the Villa Flora opened as a small art museum with an exquisite collection of works by Nabis and Fauves. Visitors were able to admire works by Bonnard, Matisse, Redon, Rouault, Maillol, Vuillard, Manguin, as well as by their predecessors such as Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Renoir. Today, however, the city of Winterthur is deeply in debt and no longer able to provide any financial support for the museum. The Villa Flora is in a state of stasis, its future uncertain. On April 29th, 2014, the great paintings were taken down from the Villa’s walls and will spend the coming years on tour throughout Europe – to Hamburg, Halle, Paris and even further…

The film tells the story of the collectors, Hedy und Arthur Hahnloser, with the aid of conversations with their descendants: they comment on family photos, project 8-millimetre films, tell anecdotes about their grandparents, spread out tablecloths and pluck flowers. Children play in the garden with toys made by their Great-Great-Grandmother, or play on the pianola originally owned by their Great-Great-Grandfather. Stefan Kurt gives new life to the voice of Hedy and Arthur’s son, Hans, providing an introduction to the lives of his art-collecting parents. A number of works are more closely analysed by the museum’s curator, and others by children in the museum. Music by Vladyslav Sendecki fills the rooms of the Villa and accompanies its history, revealing the lives of the Villa Flora’s inhabitants with its art in all of its richness and beauty.

The film was commissioned by the Hamburger Kunsthalle.