President Nixon of the United States of America visited China with a big delegation in 1972. After that historic event, a few other countries were also allowed to enter China with a delegation and amongst these countries was The Netherlands. It was in 1973, Robert Grootveld, joined a Dutch Trade Mission to The People’s Republic of China. The Dutch were treated like honorary guests by the Chinese, and the program of this mission looked quite similar to the American program. And so, one afternoon, Robert visited an “art factory”, the same as President Nixon and his delegation had visited before in 1972.
A quote from Robert, from a written lecture he once gave:
“The communists had put artists and craftsmen in special centers, where Cloisonne and Lacquer vases were made. But in this “factory” I also saw a very long table where craftsmen were painting tiny bottles from the inside! I was fascinated ! Just with a bent bamboo stick, they painted tiny landscapes, animals, people etc. I could not believe my eyes ! I tried to convince the translator that I wanted to buy a bottle, but it seemed impossible. These bottles were all reserved for the American Trade Mission ! Even for the year afterwards, they were sold out. Well, I thought, if this is so very special for them, there must be something extraordinary about these tiny bottles."
Back in time
From a young age Robert had a passion for art and started collecting. His eyes were always focused on art and he taught many family members and friends how to look at art. Robert truly appreciated the craftsmanship of the artists. Besides his passion for snuff bottles he collected a.o. paintings and sculptures of Hendrik Chabot, an artist from his hometown Rotterdam. Together with his wife Christien, they founded the Chabot Museum at the current location in Rotterdam.
As an entrepreneur and owner of NEMAG, a leading grab producing company, Robert travelled the world to promote the export of his business. As mentioned before, in 1973, Robert joined a Trade Mission to China and that’s when it all started. During this business trip he became interested in Chinese snuff bottles. Along the way Robert developed a real interest and passion for these small Chinese treasures.
During his many trips to China, Hong Kong and Singapore he always found time to visit galleries, art dealers and/or artists. He often returned home with new snuff bottles to add to his collection. Although Robert has lovely antique bottles, he admired the art of the Modern Inside Painted Snuff Bottles most. His respect for the living artists was great and he believed that they were an under-estimated group of extraordinary craftsmen. During the years he read a lot of books, articles, visited the dealers and artists himself again and again. He emailed with all of them, and despite the language problem they understood each other quite well. They discussed the beauty of the bottles and negotiated with dealers and artists about the price of a possible purchase.
International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society
In 2003 Robert became a member of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society and later joined ICSBS’s Board of Directors. ICSB is the largest international organisation of snuff bottle collectors and is devoted to the study and appreciation of snuff bottles. Yearly, ICSBS organises a convention at another location in the world. This is where Robert met collectors and dealers from all over the world. Each time he returned home from the conventions he was full of energy and had beautiful stories about the extraordinary art he had seen. He was always looking forward to the next convention to learn more about snuff bottles and to share his passion with other collectors, and friends.
Ever since Robert passed away in 2017, the family is watching over the collection and decided to show the collection by building a website. It should be seen as an educational website, showing the beauty of the Modern Inside Painted Snuff Bottle from very close, by zooming in and informing you about snuff bottles in general and the artists themselves. We hope you will be overwhelmed by the beauty of the bottles and it's craftmanship, just like we are. Robert would be so proud of the result of the website. Enjoy and learn by watching !
Greeting messages in a bottle.
The Grootveld Family