Editor's note

Eighteenth-century art

“In the previous century, when Art sat on the Throne, the Netherlands could pride itself on a multitude of outstanding artistic heroes, whose works are now sought with lanterns and taken abroad, because unfortunately there is no demand for the paintings of contemporary painters (apart from a few), since they differ vastly in artistic capabilities from those valiant luminaries of the last century.”

Thus lamented Gerard Hoet the Younger in 1751. Two hundred years later Wilhelm Martin, in his authoritative De Hollandsche schilderkunst in de 17e eeuw (Dutch Painting of the Great Period, 1650-1697), wrote the following about the eighteenth century: “The causes of the waning greatness of our painting must therefore be sought, above all, in the artists themselves. The young ones among them – children of their times as they were – lacked fresh vigor and daring.


Avalanche of books

Gerdien Verschoor

This might have been the headline of a CODART News item, if I hadn’t succeeded in preventing one of my bookcases from falling over and burying me under seven shelves of art books. You may well ask, ‘What flashes through your mind in such a situation?’ Well, I must confess that my philosophical side surrendered to my practical side, and my first thought was to attempt to hold the bookcase with one hand only, so that I could use my other hand to throw some books

on the floor (throw ... art books) until the bookcase was light enough for me to prop it up again. My second thought kept resounding in my mind like a slogan: eBook. eBook. eBook. But my third and most meaningful thought concerned CODART: several virtual bookcases appeared in my mind’s eye, such as the handy research guide that has been on CODART’s website for years, and the new RKD explore. In a flash I also thought about the future of the research guide now being devised by CODART and the RKD: an up-to-date and complete guide to the body of literature important to every museum curator. Should that guide be placed on the website of CODART, the network, or on the website of the RKD, the research institute?

These questions are exercising our minds, and their answers will be found in consultation with both the website committee and the RKD.

In the short term, however, there will be other additions to www.codart.nl. Many of our members have asked us to post their specializations on their personal page. All of our members have recently received an e-mail asking them to inform our webmaster of their fields of expertise. In the future it will be possible, via the search function, to find your colleagues according to their specializations

– and of course you, too, will be more “findable.” You may describe your specialization in terms of specific artists, genres, periods or anything else you think appropriate. The success of this new functionality depends largely on the information you provide. If you have not yet done so, please report your specializations to webmaster@codart.nl.

Regrettably few CODART members will be reporting specializations connected with the eighteenth century. Last year, when we were brainstorming with the eZine’s editorial board about a number of special issues we had in mind, it soon became clear that the “Silver Age” was high on our list of priorities. It is a period of low visibility among our members, which prompted us to ask ourselves some questions. Are there any members of CODART who operate internationally in the field of eighteenth-century Dutch and Flemish art? Which collections can tell us something about the collecting history of this period? Are there other areas within CODART that suffer from neglect? It proved to be quite a challenge to find members beyond the borders of Flanders and the Netherlands who concentrate on the eighteenth century. Even so, we have succeeded in producing a special issue that focuses on this niche with articles on eighteenth-century collectors and their holdings, an article on the heyday of the Dutch country house, and an interview with Paul Knolle, curator of the Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede, which pays special attention to the eighteenth century in its exhibition planning and collecting policies.

This all goes to show that curators who might describe their specializations in such terms as ‘Cornelis Troost’, ‘allonge perruque’ and ‘crinoline’ are more than welcome to join our ranks.

Gerdien Verschoor is Director of CODART

Curator's Collection

Neoclassicist Drawings

The unique collection of Flemish Primitives – including first-rate works by Jan van Eyck (1390/1400-1441), Hugo van der Goes (ca. 1440-1481) and Hans Memling (ca. 1433-1494) – is often the first thing people associate with the Groeningemuseum. In recent years, however, the museum has been focusing more and more on its important and exceptional holdings of neoclassicist artworks. It started with the 2007 exhibition Bruges – Paris – Rome: Joseph-Benoît Suvée and neo-classicism in Europe. The exhibition catalogue showcases, in addition to the painted oeuvre of a few neoclassicist figureheads of Bruges, some sixty drawings from the Bruges Printroom. It is an auspicious introduction to a surprisingly large collection which contains quite a few treasures waiting to be discovered.

Curator's Project

Delightful Drawings

After the 2007 exhibition on the seventeenth-century Gouden Eeuw (Golden Age), this show will highlight the eighteenth century. Under the enthusiastic and expert supervision of Charles Dumas, senior curator of the RKD (Netherlands Institute for Art History), and Robert-Jan te Rijdt, curator of drawings at the Rijksmuseum, an informed selection was made of eighty outstanding drawings which span an entire century and show the fascinating diversity of subjects and techniques that are typical of the eighteenth century.

Curator's Project

Historic Country Houses

The Netherlands still has 552 historic country houses, many of them in the provinces of Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel. Unfortunately, these monuments of our national heritage are not very well known either in the Netherlands or abroad. This is a pity, but it is also surprising, because it has been claimed that between 1600 and 1920 this country boasted more than 6,000 of these idyllic spots. The subject offers art historians many unexplored areas of research. Numerous seventeenth- and eighteenth-century portraits featuring an Arcadian setting have been studied with little or no reference to this background, even though our eighteenth-century ancestors were obviously fond of having themselves portrayed on their country estates. It was there, after all, that they spent the most pleasant part of the year.

Curator's Collection

The Duke of Braunschweig

In the Baroque era the Duchy of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, part of the German Nation of the Holy Roman Empire, was among the smaller lands of no great political significance, yet it was a flourishing center of art and culture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was here that the extremely art-loving Guelph Duke Anton Ulrich of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1633-1714) created a realm of artistic magnificence. The second son of Duke August the Younger, an erudite collector, Anton Ulrich was not his father’s designated successor. Zealously pursuing his intellectual and artistic education, he became one of the most important writers of the German Baroque.

Curator's Collection

Collecting at Polish Courts

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dual elective monarchy (the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) comprising extensive territories in East-Central Europe, including all of today’s Lithuania and Belarus as well as most of Ukraine. It was also situated on the fault line between Latin and Byzantine-Orthodox civilizations, which managed to coexist fairly well under the Polish-Lithuanian state until external pressure and internal governmental problems led to the implosion of the state and three successive partitions in the later eighteenth century. This process was triggered by the development in the surrounding countries of absolutist forms of government with centralized power. The Commonwealth remained largely an obsolete medieval organism, whose inhabitants enjoyed numerous liberties. The system gradually degenerated, however, until the once powerful land had sunken to unprecedented weakness. Thus the period discussed below is that of Poland-Lithuania’s decadence, although it must be said that after the 1740s, serious attempts were made – particularly by the last king of Poland – to introduce general reform.

Curator's Interview

Paul Knolle interviewed

Paul Knolle studied art history at Utrecht University and was affiliated with the department of art history as a researcher and teacher. Since 1997 he has been Head of Collections and Curator of Fine Arts at the Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede, for which he has organized various exhibitions on eighteenth-century art. He has published on such subjects as art education, satirical prints and eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century art theory. He is currently working on a dissertation on the origin of Dutch drawing academies in the eighteenth century. For this eZine devoted to eighteenth-century art and art-collecting, Paul Knolle was interviewed by Andrea Rousova, Curator of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Dutch Art at "Národní galerie v Praze."


Brian Capstick interviewed

The British lawyer Professor Brian Capstick is the founder of a large law firm specializing in healthcare related work, and also the founder of Datix, a London company specializing in software for health organizations. He also established an academic society that is now part of the Royal Society of Medicine.  Professor Capstick generously provided financial support for the RKD’s Segal Project, a major project that transferred Dr Sam Segal’s substantial archive of information about still lifes to the RKD, including the addition of approximately 30,000 still lifes to the RKDimages database. Capstick has been a CODART Patron since 2013.

CODART Activities


The CODART ZEVENTIEN Congress focused on problems and questions related to the presentation of collections. In all of the lectures, gallery visits and discussions, this focus revealed the tensions and possibilities in such topics as the desire to expand audience access to information, the role of technology in museums and the potential for digital engagement, various methods of presenting museum collections in the twenty-first century, and the roles of both curator and visitor in museum interpretation and audience engagement.