Dr. Marty Bax, art historian, international expert on the work of Piet Mondrian, and on Modern Art & Western Esotericism; Expert provenance researcher on the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) in the Netherlands for the Claims Conference-World Jewish Restitution Organization Looted Art and Cultural Property Initiative

Websites by Bax Art Concepts & Services:

Company website baxart.com
Bax Book Store - ebooks on art and culture
Membership Database of the Theosophical Society 1875-1942
Museum3D - the first virtual multi-user museum on the web

24 May 2024

De Burgler brieven 1944-1945


When Melis and his friend Piet were rounded up by a Sonderkommando in the middle of a January night and arrested together with a comrade from their resistance group, they knew who had betrayed them. They couldn't fathom what horrors awaited them in captivity, on transport and in a German camp. Melis could rely on his family in Groningen. He didn't yet know how important their Christian faith and friendship would prove to be for his survival.

Roel Burger, PhD in Political and Social Sciences and former scholarly employee at the Anthropology department at the University of Amsterdam, recently discovered his father's wartime correspondence in his parents' estate. These intimate letters reveal how an average Christian Dutch family was affected by the war and how it was dealt with within the family.

You can order the book here.

Alfred Rosenberg in the Netherlands 1940-1945 - first study on book plunder


Art plunder by the Nazis always attracts a lot of interest. Restitution requests on visual art as well. But the Nazis stole much more, such as books, archives and ritual objects. This publication discusses the plunder of books. Books? Is that important? Yes that is important. If only because for Jews books are essential to Jewish culture. They are the connection with the troubled Jewish past, their religion, their culture. They define the group and lay the foundation for the future. The Nazis put a violent end to that.

The Nazis believed that Jews, along with Freemasons, were plotting to take over world domination. And that had to be verified and stopped. That is why the Nazis founded 'academic' institutes for, among other things, as they euphemistically called it, 'the study of the issue of the Jews'. Book plunder was an integral part of the Final Solution, the destruction of the Jewish people. It was not just about the physical holocaust, but also about a cultural holocaust. The same applies to all groups that did not fit the Nazi ideal: socialists, communists, Sinti and Roma, Jesuits, friendly societies such as the Rotary and the Odd Fellows, and esoteric movements such as Rosicrucianism, Theosophy and Anthroposophy.

This book describes for the first time how, when and by whom the literary landscape in the Netherlands was razed to the ground. All kinds of branches of the civilian Nazi government preyed on the books. The focus in this book is on the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, which initially limited itself to the theft of books and archives, but from March 1942 also gained control over the so-called 'Möbel-Aktion': the plunder of all household goods of deported Jews and other 'subversive' groups.

In the Netherlands, millions of books have been robbed, stolen, auctioned, dragged, squandered, destroyed and transported to Germany. The Nazis were helped by a range of Dutch people with varying degrees of collaboration. Mapping the paths of the plunder may ultimately make it possible to find out where the books went, ultimately making restitution possible.

This bookis the Dutch version. An English version will be published on the website of the Claims Conference, together with a chart of names of institutions and persons, which are mentioned in the ERR reports.

05 October 2023

Hilma Af Klint & Piet Mondriaan exhibition: integrity, myth and money

From October 7 Hilma Af Klint will gloriously return to the Kunstmuseum in The Hague. In 1986, now 37 years ago, Af Klint rose to international fame as the discovery of the century in the American travelling exhibition The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1895-1985, of which The Hague was the last venue. In 2018, Af Klint’s international acclaim as the pioneer of Swedish abstract art was sealed at the Guggenheim Museum. Af Klint’s work has acquired cultish dimensions. People swoon before her work. Researchers and critics regard themselves as channeled by the artist. 

So, nothing wrong with this new exhibition, is there? False: everything is wrong about this exhibition. Literally everything. 

08 February 2021

Anna Cassel & Hilma af Klint. Childhood 1907. Vision of a new Swedish Christian identity

 In December 1907 Hilma af Klint and the group De Fem finished the of a series of ten paintings, called De tio största (The Ten Largest). This series is said to depict the evolution of human life from birth to old age. The series makes an indelible impression, if only because of the size of the works: they are twice the height of the average human being. The paintings are also extremely rich in iconographical details: an abundance of floral motives, arabesque-like script and geometric shapes.

The iconographical richness of the series defies any simple explanation. Descriptions in literature are, possibly because of it, mainly highly descriptive in character, and when inspirational sources are mentioned, they are interpreted in the way Hilma af Klint’s fame rose from the late 1980’s: late 19th and early 20th century Occultism: Theosophy and Anthroposophy.

But if that is true remains much to be seen. Why do all the analyses fall short of a thorough interpretation based on the iconography itself, on the ideas of the painter(s) and on the setting in which the works originated?

Hilma was part of the women’s group De Fem, consisting of five members: Sigrid Hedman, the medium; Mathilda Nilsson, publisher and main psychographer; and three painters: Anna Cassel, Hilma af Klint and Cornelia Cederberg, who all knew each other from their training at the School of Decorative Arts and the Royal Academy. This group, a subdivision of the Edelweissförbundet, had a specific mission: to produce paintings for a “temple.”

Of the proceedings seven notebooks exist: five made during sessions of De Fem, and two separate ones by Anna Cassel and Hilma af Klint. These last notebooks in fact are extracts of the now destroyed 28 (sic) original notebooks. Hilma made these extracts shortly after 1927, and annotated them another time in 1934. Thus the two existing notebooks contain only a sliver of the original ones. Not only that. By piecing together the information of all of the seven notebooks it becomes clear that Hilma deliberately twisted history to her advantage when all of her colleagues had died. She describes her role in the group as the superior one, as the genius behind the work. Also she superimposes her later Occult worldview on work that was made around 1906-1908. None of this is historically correct.   

The first of The Ten Largest, Childhood, is a perfect study object to delve deeper into the real events and contemporary context. A minute analysis of the mission of the group and the iconographical breakdown of all of the elements of the painting have resulted in a stunning picture of the circumstances and of the reasons why the specific pictorial elements were chosen. The genius behind the work – in fact of the whole concept of all of the series – is Anna Cassel, who solely received the assignment from the spirits through Sigrid Hedman to create a vision based on “the saga’s:” “… not written by human hand but carved into the finest matter of human life. For this you must know: for he who [has] eyes to see with, there is a living writing in space, a diary of the changing destinies of the world, of the many lives of the individual.

The analysis of Childhood provides an array of the predictable impulses that Anna has worked into the painting. Among them are Christian Spiritualism and Pietism (the religious orientation of De Fem and the Edelweissförbundet), Norse folklore, archeology and rune culture, all in the context of Swedish National Romanticism. The theme of the series has nothing to do with the natural progression of a human life. It symbolizes the birth and development of the modern Christian identity of the young, newly formed Swedish State in 1905.

The book is available HERE.

28 April 2020

The exhibition of Anna Cassel and Hilma af Klint. Stockholm 1913

In 2013 and 2017 I wrote several blogs on the art of Hilma af Klint, in which I pointed out that research had only started, and that art production can never be separated from the impulses an artist gets from his/her social surroundings: people, ideas, political circumstances, literature, work of other artists, just to name a few sources. Since that time more literature on Hilma af Klint has been published, but alas: much of my objections to the way she is pictured as the ‘lone Swedish genius of abstraction’ still stand.

It all comes down to basic research. Of primary sources. Of contemporary sources. Of contemporary literature, especially when it comes to interpretation of iconography of 'occult' art. As in all research facts need to lead the way. Facts need to be amassed from many different sources. Time-consuming, yes. Illuminating, yes. Facts can end up painting a totally different picture than what has been reported in history. It is very important, for instance, to check the information in ‘autobiographical’ reports against information from other sources, before this information solidifies into a fixed image. Do the facts correspond? If not, why not? For which reasons were facts distorted, left out, inflated?

Hilma af Klint is said to have first exhibited her ‘occult’ art in 1928 in London, at the occasion of an Anthroposophical conference. She and her art were labeled as ‘Rosicrucian’. Understandably: from 1907 the president of the Anthroposophical Society, Rudolf Steiner, had coined his Theosophy as ‘modern Rosicrucianism’. Hilma had become a true fan of Steiner. So that fits, doesn’t it? In 1932 she wrote that she was unhappy about her reception, that people didn’t understand her art and thought it best to have her work behinds lids for the next twenty years.

The 1928 exhibition however was not her first. Fifteen years earlier Hilma and her life-long friend and financial, emotional and artistic pillar-behind-the-scenes Anna Cassel were part of the exhibition organized by the European Confederation of the Theosophical Society, which was held in Stockholm in 1913. When I wrote down these facts in 1990 while researching the 1904 Theosophical exhibition which was held in Amsterdam to prepare my dissertation, I could never have envisaged that my notes would become important. But well, that is what researchers do: hoarding information for you-never-know-when.

The analysis of the Theosophical Stockholm exhibition has led to surprising discoveries. The exhibition itself had a completely different character than the previous exhibitions of the European Confederation in other European cities. The analysis of the group of artists also provides essential corrections on the work of Hilma af Klint, but not only of hers. Of Anna Cassel as well. Of the groups in which they operated. All women named in the séance notebooks of the group De Fem and other groups, of which both artists were a member, have been identified and have been given a face. All of these women are immensely meaningful for the socioeconomic, spiritual and artistic influences they had on the artists.

The 1913 exhibition functions as a starting point for a more elaborate discussion of the type of exhibited works and the consequences for the interpretation of themes; the ideological backgrounds of the work and shifts in orientation; the networks in which the artists operated and which have influenced them; and the reception history of Hilma af Klint, which has incorrectly determined and influenced the interpretation of the work and of the group.

The book can be ordered here.

10 May 2017

Hilma af Klint revisited. Part I. The Theosophical Society in Sweden

As a researcher I am inclined to return to subjects which have seen no satisfactory conclusion. These open ends keep nagging me and force me to revise the facts and search for new ones. Such is the case with Hilma af Klint. I wrote about her a couple of years ago, questioning some biographical facts of her life, her position within the group of The Five and her art production. Four of the women of The Five, all members of the Stockholm Lodge of the Theosophical Society, are supposed to have merely served the impressive output on esoteric art which made Hilma af Klint famous.

In this blog, cut into three parts, I want to present alternative views.

Hilma af Klint revisited. Part II: The Edelweissförbundet and The Five

The Five was not, by any means, a product of five women after they joined forces in the Stockholm Lodge of the TS. The history of The Five starts solidly, and about 10 years earlier, within a completely different group, the Edelweissförbundet (Edelweiss Society). This society has been mentioned in Af Klint’s biography, but only fleetingly, in a sort of names-dropping way. But this society and its aims have shaped course and contents of the later activities of The Five in the most essential manner.

The Edelweissförbundet was founded in December 1888. This is, in fact, parallel to the founding of the branch of the TS in Stockholm. And this must be the date which has mistakenly be identified as the date in which Hilma af Klint joined the Theosophical Society.

Hilma af Klint revisited. Part III: Anna Cassel, Hilma's 'other half'

So this time I want to draw Anna Cassel into the limelight. Anna has frequently been mentioned only as as Hilma’s life-long friend and artist-colleague, but again, only fleetingly. From 1882-1887 they attended the Stockholm academy Anna from 1880, Hilma from 1882 onwards. One of their teachers was Count Georg von Rosen (1843-1923). Members of his larger family became members of the Edelweissförbundet.

WTF?! The artist is granted a PhD

Since1850 freedom of press became the pillar of a democratic state. Freedom of press was the starting point of an avalanche of artists manifests. Modern art is a direct outcome of this development until today, and so is the artist as being the primary voice and explicator of his artistic goals. This mechanism has in effect become a solid part of modern tradition. That tradition we would now call “branding”: creating your USP’s through your work and your manifests, and creating your own market through as much followers as possible.

The university has now become one of those followers. Recently the University of Leiden launched a chair for the “art sciences”, through which artists can acquire a PhD. It’s officially called “PhDArts at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts” and is a collaboration between the Leiden University and the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague. The chair is led by the art historian and (former) art critic Janneke Wesseling.

30 March 2016

Membership list Theosophical Society online again

Due to various circumstances, not in the least because of extreme monsoons in India last December, my site TheArtArchives eventually became defunct. This site contained the membership list ( "General Register") of the Theosophical Society (Adyar branch) from 1875-1915. A new site has been established, www.tsmembers.org, which now makes it possible to study the list until 1942. Head over there and start your search!

Membership list Theosophical Society www.tsmembers.org

New books at Bax Book Store

How influences of western esotericism in art are influenced by family networks

Art is not only the product of artistic inspiration, it is also determined by the social context of an artist. The avant-garde was ideologically determined by Western Esotericism, especially spiritualism, modern theosophy and anthroposophy. Genealogical methods uncover networks of artists, which not only run ‘vertically’ in generations, but also in ‘horizontal’ lines between families.
Text in Dutch.

Bax-Networks Western Esotericism

Mondrian's Passions

No artist has changed the face of modern art, design and architecture more fundamentally than the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. During his career Mondrian slowly but surely evolved from a traditional 19th century realist painter to the prime pioneer of pure abstraction.
Post-war art historians and critics have always depicted Mondrian as an odd hermit, socially shy and introverted, with a frame of thinking as rectilinear as his art and his Calvinist upbringing.
But how true to his life is this image really?
This book is about Mondrian’s true passions: how painting, the struggle with outward appearance and painterly substance, becomes the inner expression of a view on life; how writing about painting evaluates ideas and development; and the cultivation an extensive social network to reach out to the world.
Mondrian’s message can be condensed into the magical amount of seven words: Art is passion, and passion is life.
This book contains a selection of seminal essays on Mondrian, published in international exhibition catalogues and books between 1994 and 2014, in various languages.


The painting methods of Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg and Bart van der Leck

De Stijl movement never was a coherent group. Analysis of the painting methods of Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg and Bart van de Leck reveal why.

 Bax-DeStijl-working methods 

How genealogy explains Theo van Doesburg's alias

The real name of the artist Theo van Doesburg, most active propagator of the De Stijl movement, was Christian Emil Marie Küpper. How and why did this Emil Küpper decide on his alias? Genealogy has all the answers.

Bax-VanDoesburg alias1

Jacques Northe - Amortisatie (Amortization)

Bax Book Store holds the honor of publishing an extraordinary book by Jacques Northe.

Jacques Northe - Amortisatie

Jacques Northe (ps. of Jacques Sitter) was born in Amsterdam in 1934. After studying history in the 1950’s he worked in theater, film and opera in cities as Berlin, Zürich and Paris. In 1974 Northe self-published the first part of his opinionated and meandering debut novel Amortisatie (Amortization) in a stenciled edition of 150. Fragments of the manuscript Wenk (Hint) were published in Raster and in the Flemish magazine Heibel. Subsequently little was heard of the writer who so promisingly entered the sphere of literature.
His work was rediscovered in 2010 by writer and photographer Lucas Hügsen. Through his efforts the first complete publication of Amortization has been realized.

Amortization is about a certain Waldemar, in whose estate an unfinished manuscript is found on a committee issuing a liber amicorum on the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler. That story, with its numerous cultural and political ramifications, is so bizarre that an unnamed introducer, vaguely reminiscent of Charles Kinbote in Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, feels the need to annotate the text and provide comments.

New websites Bax Art

During the last few months I have been updating various sites to fully responsive websites.
Enjoy the new dynamic layout and new functionalities!

Bax Art Concepts & Services Homepage

Bax Book Store

05 March 2015

Virtual Mondrian Museum - Mondrian3D

On Piet Mondrian's birthday, March 7, a new Mondrian museum opens its doors to the wide public: Mondrian 3D. The museum is a production of Activeworlds Europe, DXMedia and Bax Art Concepts & Services.

The concept of the museum is an extension of the ideas of Mondrian himself, even though the idea of a virtual environment didn’t exist in his time, at least not in this way. Mondrian wanted his art to be available to everyone, so that everyone could become familiar with his ideas. He had high ideals about the function of his art in modern society. He wanted his art to fit in with the latest technological and social developments, and at the same time it should deepen cultural awareness and awareness of the inner self.

Concept and goals of Mondrian 3D

The idea for a virtual museum dedicated to one artist dates from several years ago. In the real world museum organizing a retrospective of a major artist like Mondrian is a growing problem. An exhibition takes many years and is extremely expensive, in money, time, transportation and security. In this time of economic tightness sponsorship of exhibitions is increasingly under pressure. In the course of time works become progressively fragile; restoration prior to transport is costly and intensive. Some works are in private collections and are not available for loan at all. In the course of history work is lost, perhaps also the pictures of works that no longer exist, through fire or theft or disaster.

In a virtual museum is it possible to without all these restrictions to bring all of the works of an artist together and preserve the history of an oeuvre and an artist. A virtual museum is an environment where everyone in the world has access on his own time, now and in the distant future. The virtual museum can act as an interactive map connecting to centers of expertise in the real world, and in which discussions of professionals and enthusiasts can lead to understanding the cultural value of an artist. Collaboration between professional partners ensures that the virtual museum and its educational goals have the same high level as that of a physical museum.

Click here for the trailer of Mondrian3D

For many a virtual museum may appear science fiction, but among younger generations outside the traditional museum this is by no means the case. The youth of today is accustomed to moving in virtual worlds. Their way of communicating and forming communities is intricately connected with such environments. For young people the virtual world is not ‘testing place’ for social interaction; it is a real and natural part of daily life. In addition, young people at home and at school are now accustomed to gather knowledge and insights via the digital way. Working with digital sources has become an integral part of study skills taught at primary school. In this way, the virtual museum serves as an important and dependable first source of knowledge for the oeuvre of an artist. The next step is a visit to the real museum, where young people can smell the paint. Young people, in short, move from the virtual to the real. In pedagogical respect, one can be critical about his, but it is also possible to use this constructively.


ActiveWorlds is a virtual environment, similar to Second Life or Sims. In this virtual world is it possible to exhibit a complete body of work, make your own exhibition, create separate spaces for private collections, hold meetings, lectures and tours, to offer educational projects and sell merchandise. The possibilities of a virtual museum as an extension of a physical museum are basically endless. Behind the avatars are real people, who can inform visitors, be it at a set time on the day (so real-life) but also when a visitor activates a button. And just as in a real museum you can meet each other at the meeting point, go to the café, walk to a specific work and discuss it together. A virtual museum offers even more: have you ever stood in front of a painting and secretly thought: what happens when I turn a painting? How does it look when it hangs upside down?

Visit the museum

Mondrian 3D is a virtual museum on a private area of the web. A simple plug-in is needed to access the world, the work, yourself and other visitors you see on your screen and with whom you can communicate. All information about the plug-in, visiting the museum and your presence at the opening can be found at www.museum3d.eu.

08 October 2014

Grete Trakl biography. Including 5 unknown poems by Georg Trakl

During the last four years I have been researching the life of Grete Trakl (1891-1917), sister of the well-known Austrian 'expressionist' poet Georg Trakl (1887-1914). Although Georg’s life and work have been extensively researched, the biography of his sister Grete, with whom he is said to have had an incestuous relationship, has remained remarkably sketchy.
This biography describes her life in full detail, based on newly found facts and a review of existing facts. It debunks the myths which were created around her and her brother Georg. In the book I take you with me on my journey into the discovery of the real Grete Trakl, sometimes in a literal sense, as I visited many places related to her life and that of her family. The e-book therefore contains films and music to bring you close to Grete's world. The writing style is smooth and accessible and thus suitable for many audiences: not only for the general lover of non-fiction and for people interested in feminist/gender issues, psychology and cultural history in a very broad sense, but also for the more scholarly audiences who appreciate thorough research, especially for those who study the work and life of Georg Trakl.

12 June 2014

Bax Book Store

Behind every idea or project is a person. As a person I am largely a conceptual thinker. I like to develop things. Call it my creative streak.
Creativity actually seems to run in my family. A few years ago, while reconstructing my pedigree chart and at the same time compiling a small book on the diary the artist Albrecht Dürer made of his travels to the Netherlands in 1520-1521, I ironically discovered that one of my ancestors was the famous Renaissance artist Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533), of whom Dürer made a portrait in Antwerp. Suddenly one of my distant ancestors got a face, and a famous one!

Fair use policy and copyright control

Albrecht Dürer was an interesting person. Not only was he the first artist to make prints in large editions, sometimes compiled into a book, his diary shows clearly how he consciously maintained his personal network to widen his circle of potential buyers. Giving ‘freebies’, from individual prints to his immense Große Passion Christi, was part of his marketing strategy.
Dürer was also the first artist to consciously claim and exploit his copyright on his work. He used what we now would call a fair use policy. While retaining full control over his copyright, he had agents who sold his work while he was on tour and who received a fair share in return.

Dürer, in short, nicely fits the picture of the contemporary author, who has become increasingly fed up with the monopoly of the print publishing industry and who wants to regain or retain control over his authorship.

Democratic values in publishing

Dürer’s self-awareness was a product of a new time, formed by the new humanistic concepts circulating within his close circle of contacts. Humanism forms the basis of our modern democratic society, based on equality, mutual respect and a fair share for everyone.

These ideas in turn form the basis of Bax Book Store and of the two partners, who have joined forces to realize Bax Book Store: myself and Sjoerd van Essen, marketing specialist at DX Media and also a conceptual thinker.

By stressing fair use and shared values Bax Book Store offers creators of digital content an alternative to the existing monopolies of traditional publishing companies. Instead of being merely merchandise hidden in an online shop, content creators can be in the driver’s seat by partnering with us.


Bax Book Store platform

Bax Book Store provides an international platform for publishers, writers and artists to publish their works digitally as an e-book, video or photo. It also offers authors and publishers the possibility to publish their books through so-called ‘private labels’: your own special section on the store, as an extension of your existing brand or in the look and feel you want it to have.

Bax Book Store communicates with a special app, Mybookreader, in iOS and (soon) in Android.

Next to new books, which are only available digitally and which will increasingly consist of interactive productions, the store also offers books which have stood the test of time because of their intrinsic quality. Declared dead, as of no commercial use to the original publisher, these books are now given a second life in digital format at Bax Book Store, thus offering inspirational value to a new audience.

Fair deals, shared values, joint effort

In short: We at Bax Book Store believe in a fair deal and a joint effort to bring content to the targeted audience, fully respecting the intellectual property of the (co-)creators. We don't review books and we don't judge the makers. That's up to the customers.

If you want to publish in our store we only ask you three questions:
Do you share our values?
Do you want to share your audience with the others?
Does your publication fit in?

Check out Bax Book Store
Watch a video on The Rijks Museum exonerated
Interested in the Bax Book Store newsletter? Go here
Buy a book

04 October 2013

Hilma and the enigmatic Mathilde N.

This year I have been in Sweden twice, for the retrospective exhibition on Hilma af Klint. The invitation came through the Ax:son Johnson Foundation, founded in 1947 by the late Consul General Axel Ax:son Johnson together with his wife Margaret, owner of the Nordstjernan group. The foundation, led by the highly amiable Kurt Almqvist, facilitates scientific research in general, but in particular the liberal arts and the social sciences. I was deeply impressed by their hospitality and professionalism. The foundation has clearly thought very deeply and constructively about their strategy how to inform a wider public about pressing issues in society. Conferences with scholars from all over the world, a website, a magazine, even their own TV channel with the top-Swedish interviewer Thomas Gür, who courteously and tongue-in-cheek said it was his fun ‘to ask stupid questions and get intelligent answers’. All in all: amazing. I wish we had such an institution in my country!

The adventure started in February, when an expert meeting was organized at the opening of the exhibition. The meeting was held in Engelsberg, a top-list Unesco heritage site own by the Ax:son group. Mid-winter, snow-covered landscape in the middle of the woods, paths at night lighted with candles along the sides, in the typically Swedish manner. A truly romantic setting. And a relaxed place to meet many international colleagues from other disciplines. For me personally, my acquaintance with Hilma’s work came full circle, when I met Maurice Tuchman again, who in 1986 organized The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985. Its venue at The Hague constituted my first job as a curator. That exhibition showed Hilma’s work in public for the first time after WWII.

In May some of the scholars travelled to Stockholm again, at the closing of the exhibition, to lecture at a public conference in the Moderna Museet. The main objective of the conference was to publicly discuss how Hilma af Klint and her art should be positioned in her time, between the other pioneers of abstract art, and how her art can be understood. The debate intended also to point towards the future. Where does Hilma advance from here? Where should her position be within art history? All of the proceedings and the interviews circling around these basic questions are now on the Axess website. In this blog I want to add a little more to the discussion.