Design & Decoration S04 ep4 : Johnny Van Haeften, Haeften Gallery, [London]

Interview with Johnny Van Haeften

Johnny Van Haeften, although of Dutch origins, was born and educated in England. After leaving Christie’s in 1977, he formed Johnny Van Haeften Limited and opened the present gallery at 13 Duke Street, St. James’s, in 1982. For thirty-three years he has pursued his passion for seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings and is now the only London dealer specialising in this field. Johnny Van Haeften is a former council member of the British Antique Dealers Association and has previously acted as Vice Chairman of the Society of London Art Dealers. He is currently on the Executive Committee of the European Fine Art Foundation and is a member of the Reviewing Committee for the Export of Works of Art.

 

03:09
I never got into the pictures department . Every year I knock on the Chairman's door and say I
really must get into the pictures department or I really must leave and he'd say let me give you
another five hundred pounds a year, would you stay on. And I could be bought very cheap at
that time. We got to the end of every year and I would knock on his door and say oh, Van
Haeften, five hundred pounds and I would say yes please sir and I'd stay on. Until one year he
said, "hmm ok, you really wanna leave?" and I said oh oh, don't like the sound of this and in
1977, I left. And it was the year I got married, so it was a bit of a , sort of double whammy. And
then I set up with my wife in the gallery in Bond Street. 03:43

03:52
The advantage of course of being in the auction house was, when people went home in the
evenings at 6'oclock, I could go back, switch on the lights and look at the pictures really
carefully and feel them, it's very important. I mean if you go around today at the Ashmoleum
or Fitzwilliam museum feeling the pictures, you'd be arrested in seconds.
04:07

04:17
To be able to feel the difference between poplar and oak or Mahogany and Rosewood and or to
feel the thickness of a canvas, whether Italian or Dutch canvas, or to feel the thickness of
copper, copperplates, very important. To get a feel of the impasto on the surface of the
painting. You really need to be able to touch them. I think that, that was the most fantastic
learning curve and my lunch hour I go to National gallery or the Wallace collection , we're so
lucky in England, having seen so many wonderful museums, so Dullich picture gallery, of
which I'm now a trustee, was a very favorite spot and so standing there in my lunch hour,
looking at a pictures, learning, teaching oneself was actually a very, very good ways to learn.
05:00

05:09
Because of our specialization, dare I say it , we've becoma a bit of a name for selling Dutch
pictures, so people brought things to us, people tipped us off about auctions abroad , obscure
places and we got offered things that we would otherwise not be offered.
05:22

05:32
From time to time I have had something that has fallen into my lap which is outside the field.
We did had a very nice El Greco it was a prize. I've had pictures by Fragonard as well, I've had
pictures of LeMuan, but they have certain sectors , it's really horses for course, I know I'm better
off sticking to what I know, sticking to Dutch pictures on the basis that if I make a mistake then
that's entirely haunted me, whereas if I stray outside my field, I'll only do so in the company of
one of another colleague, who may have want some financial assistance.
06:04

Henry Dunay Jewellery

06:13
The Dutch Artists of the 17th century are very precise, very analytical and they are painting
what they see. I mean for instance you take Henrique Aldecamp , the great winter scene painter,
He was a deaf muse. He was deaf and dumb and he could not explain what he saw unless he
actually painted it. So in his pictures you will find occassionally somebody hanging in the
gallows or a dead horses or birds, or whatever, cause that's what he saw, he didn't try to beautify
what he saw but he was painting reality, it was the first sort of, form of realism. Italian painting
is fairly impressionistic.If you like, It's lighter in tonality and color, but most of the clients that
we have are from the north of Europe, a few from the South.The ones from the south buy the
Flemish pictures which are lighter in tonality and color. There's very much a demarcation
between the two.There's an overlap luckily, cause the Americans collect both, so that solves
that problem but I don't dislike Italian pictures, but you see Dutchmen working in Italy , they
have a much lighter tonality than the Dutch Italianists like Pynacker and Bosch , there's a
whole school of artists , who went from the north to paint the south.
07:22

07:30
And we've now sold four and a half thousand paintings in my thirty five years in the business.
And we have just sell this wonderful Franz Franken of the man, we call mankind eternal
dilemma. It's the constant path between vice and virtue. Vice looks like its actually much more
fun. There's a little dove portrait of the back of the stand here which was in a filthy state ,
covered in grime and when we cleaned it, we discovered of course, it was in immaculate
condition and a beautiful little picture by Dahl.
08:00

08:08
We have a wonderful painting by Jan Bosch, big landscape which was reserved on the opening
day, which was reserved by a private collector who ended up buying it, but when I got back to
my stand, I found a list of cards from various museum saying can we reserve it, and then after
that can we reserve it, we ended up with eight reserves on it. But the collector won out.
08:30


Henry Dunay Jewellery

04:17
To be able to feel the difference between poplar and oak or Mahogany and Rosewood and or to
feel the thickness of a canvas, whether Italian or Dutch canvas, or to feel the thickness of
copper, copperplates, very important. To get a feel of the impasto on the surface of the
painting. You really need to be able to touch them. I think that, that was the most fantastic
learning curve and my lunch hour I go to National gallery or the Wallace collection , we're so
lucky in England, having seen so many wonderful museums, so Dullich picture gallery, of
which I'm now a trustee, was a very favorite spot and so standing there in my lunch hour,
looking at a pictures, learning, teaching oneself was actually a very, very good ways to learn.
05:00

05:09
Because of our specialization, dare I say it , we've becoma a bit of a name for selling Dutch
pictures, so people brought things to us, people tipped us off about auctions abroad , obscure
places and we got offered things that we would otherwise not be offered.
05:22

05:32
From time to time I have had something that has fallen into my lap which is outside the field.
We did had a very nice El Greco it was a prize. I've had pictures by Fragonard as well, I've had
pictures of LeMuan, but they have certain sectors , it's really horses for course, I know I'm better
off sticking to what I know, sticking to Dutch pictures on the basis that if I make a mistake then
that's entirely haunted me, whereas if I stray outside my field, I'll only do so in the company of
one of another colleague, who may have want some financial assistance.
06:04

Henry Dunay Jewellery


06:13
The Dutch Artists of the 17th century are very precise, very analytical and they are painting
what they see. I mean for instance you take Henrique Aldecamp , the great winter scene painter,
He was a deaf muse. He was deaf and dumb and he could not explain what he saw unless he
actually painted it. So in his pictures you will find occassionally somebody hanging in the
gallows or a dead horses or birds, or whatever, cause that's what he saw, he didn't try to beautify
what he saw but he was painting reality, it was the first sort of, form of realism. Italian painting
is fairly impressionistic.If you like, It's lighter in tonality and color, but most of the clients that
we have are from the north of Europe, a few from the South.The ones from the south buy the
Flemish pictures which are lighter in tonality and color. There's very much a demarcation
between the two.There's an overlap luckily, cause the Americans collect both, so that solves
that problem but I don't dislike Italian pictures, but you see Dutchmen working in Italy , they
have a much lighter tonality than the Dutch Italianists like Pynacker and Bosch , there's a
whole school of artists , who went from the north to paint the south.
07:22

07:30
And we've now sold four and a half thousand paintings in my thirty five years in the business.
And we have just sell this wonderful Franz Franken of the man, we call mankind eternal
dilemma. It's the constant path between vice and virtue. Vice looks like its actually much more
fun. There's a little dove portrait of the back of the stand here which was in a filthy state ,
covered in grime and when we cleaned it, we discovered of course, it was in immaculate
condition and a beautiful little picture by Dahl.
08:00


Henry Dunay Jewellery

08:08
We have a wonderful painting by Jan Bosch, big landscape which was reserved on the opening
day, which was reserved by a private collector who ended up buying it, but when I got back to
my stand, I found a list of cards from various museum saying can we reserve it, and then after
that can we reserve it, we ended up with eight reserves on it. But the collector won out.
08:30

08:39
I think one of the funniest was standing here on the stand one day and finding a little old lady
who was interested in talking to me. Here I am in the middle of Holland and I said it's delightful
to meet you too, who are you? And she said I was your grandfather's mistress. Well that
completely threw me, I'm not, as you can see, very short of speech, she was grandfather's
mistress, I'd never met her and everybody else on the stand fell about laughing and I thought oh
my god, this is one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. But it's probably one of the
highlights cause it was so funny.
09:06

09:15
One of my low points is when my wife and I both sold the same painting to two different people
at the same moment and that was very awkward because you had to decide who was going to
win and I thought well my name is over the door, so I'm gonna be the one to win so I had, I risk
more than losing a client, but my wife, who wasn't very pleased with me. The two clients had a
row on the stand. People came from all the stands around to listen to this and in the end, one
said I'll pay the full price and the other said I'll pay the full price and it was getting really
awkward so I had to make a decision and I knew that one of them would be a client for life and
one of them would never speak to me again. Both were true.
09:53

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Johnny Van Haeften, Haeften Gallery, London