Henri Laurens | La grande musicienne

Artist: Henri Laurens (1885-1954)
Artwork: La grande musicienne (1937/1963)
Collection: Rotterdam municipal collection
Acquisition: Gemeentelijke Commissie Stadsverfraaiing


In 1956, the architects of de Doelen believed that the new music venue was worthy of an artwork of international ambition. After much back-and-forth, the choice fell on a sculpture by sculptor Henri Laurens: La grande musicienne (1937). Laurens was initially inspired by Rodin and later influenced by Picasso's cubism. Around the time the Doelen building was being constructed, his works were showcased at exhibitions and biennales worldwide. A copy of La grande musicienne was available for purchase in Paris, going for around 200.000 guilders. The artwork was produced in an edition of five, one of which could be purchased by the city of Rotterdam if they acted quickly. The College of Mayor and Aldermen decided to acquire the sculpture. However, an additional 25.000 guilders was required.

Four months later, La grande musicienne arrived at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, where it was initially placed on the terrace, awaiting its transfer to de Doelen. The alderman had attached one condition to the purchase of the bronze sculpture: it had to be visible from the public road and be incorporated into the urban environment—preferably on the Schouwburgplein near De Doelen. However, it was soon decided that the vastness of the square would swallow the sculpture whole, not establishing a connection with the music venue at all. As a temporary solution, the Doelen courtyard became the sculpture’s designated location. La grande musicienne, it was suggested, would be clearly visible from the spacious foyer adjacent to de Kleine Zaal. However, the sculpture by the famous Parisian sculptor seemed destined for a miserable existence in the "deteriorated Binnehof turned service area", as noted by the Committee. "A purchase that deserved a round of applause has been turned into a mockery."

Having been moved around several times, the sculpture found a tentative destination on the sculpture terrace along the Westersingel in 2001. Here, La grande musicienne truly comes into its own, at several hundred meters’ distance from de Doelen.