Wall painting Dolf Henkes destroyed

With astonishment, CBK Rotterdam has learned of the destruction of a mural by Rotterdam artist Dolf Henkes (1903 – 1989) by Hogeschool Rotterdam.

The mural was made in 1954-1955 in the company restaurant of the former refinery Texaco Pernis (formerly Caltex, now Nerefco). The work (300 x 600) shows the chemist and Nobel Prize winner Jacobus van 't Hoff in a laboratory. On the blackboard are the formulas that made the renowned chemist world famous. In 2005, the facade on which the painting was applied was cut loose, completely restored and moved to a location of Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences on Kralingse Zoom. The restoration and the move were big news. A special work from the time of the reconstruction of Rotterdam could be saved. The venture was also successful because a very broad coalition in Rotterdam made a second life possible. The business community had a significant share in the whole, as did the municipality of Rotterdam, the Cultural Heritage Agency and a few funds.

'Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences was not open to consultations about conservation. Both the Dolf Henkes Foundation and we have made an attempt to enter into a dialogue with the school', says Norman Vervat of Erfgoedvereniging Heemschut, which has been making efforts for years to preserve important works of art for posterity. 'It is striking that the doors remained closed to us'.

Stewardship can nevertheless be expected from Hogeschool Rotterdam. From a formal point of view, an owner of works of art has a duty of care. But also from a moral perspective, the Hogeschool could have made more efforts to secure the future of this special work of art. There are plenty of examples of good behavior in Rotterdam. Shell and CBK Rotterdam restored and relocated a gigantic ceramic artwork by Dick Elffers in Hoogvliet. The Vroom family financed the restoration of a beautiful wall painting by Dolf Henkes that once adorned the boardroom of Vroom & Dreesmann. The Heemschut association mentioned above, in collaboration with project developer Blauwhoed, managed to save a wall painting by Dolf Henkes from the former Dijkzigt hospital. CBK Rotterdam also managed to save a mural from the same hospital. This special work by artist Louis van Roode will be relocated to De Doelen at the end of November.

More and more institutions, companies and the municipality of Rotterdam are trying to preserve works of art from the time of the reconstruction of the city for future generations. That is a noble pursuit. But for this program to succeed, information exchange about upcoming demolition activities, consultation and cooperation with partners is a prerequisite.

Wall painting Dolf Henkes, made in hospital Dijzigt (1961), removed from the facade by Erfgoedvereniging Heemschut and adopted by project developer Blauwhoed for a construction project on Katendrecht.


Wall painting Dolf Henkes, interior Chinese restaurant Katendrecht (1972). Stored in the depot of Museum Rotterdam.


Wall painting Dolf Henkes, made for the boardroom of V&D (1961). Restored by the Vroom family and stored in the depot of Museum Rotterdam.
Publication date: 02 / 11 / 2021