Editor's note

Art and Architecture

Victoria Sancho Lobis

The question of place is a common theme in studies of Netherlandish art. One reason for this is the wealth of landscape subjects in Early Modern paintings, prints, and drawings. Another is the abiding interest in drawing geographical distinctions: that is, between schools linked to particular cities (Haarlem, Dordrecht, Brussels) or regions (Dutch versus Flemish). By contrast, the subject of space—its design and its decoration—attracts far less attention within our field. The content of the present issue is therefore a very welcome corrective, and will undoubtedly spark further reflections on subjects relating to Dutch and Flemish architecture and design. Oliver Kik draws our attention to a number of important architectural drawings. The examples he provides compel us to ask why such drawings have not been treated in the past as especially worthy of preservation or scholarly scrutiny. Clearly, we can learn a great deal from them, both about the ways in which major buildings were commissioned and about the processes of design and construction.

The interview with Judikje Kiers and Thijs Boers shows that focusing on historic sites may guide and indeed transform museum policy. The premise that the building in which Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is located is itself the most important object in the museum’s collection leads to a radically different approach: the historic site is no longer viewed as a mere backdrop but recast as experience. My colleagues at 

the Art Institute pursued this strategy in the recent exhibition Van Gogh’s Bedrooms, which included a recreation of the space depicted in the artist’s paintings of his bedroom in the “Yellow House” in Arles.

Yvette Driever reflects on the reconstruction of a historic site from a different angle. The Valkhof Citadel in Nijmegen was immortalized in a series of drawings produced by the artist and politician Hendrik Hoogers at the end of the eighteenth century shortly before the structure was demolished. These drawings added to what was already an abundance of paintings, prints, and drawings prominently featuring the citadel - by Jan van Goyen, Aelbert Cuyp, and others. Plans were already being drawn up for the citadel’sreconstruction around 1900. Still, even though recent years have witnessed an upsurge of interest in this idea, no progress has been made in reconstructing part or all of the structure. The Museum Het Valkhof therefore remains a historic site that preserves the memory of a space rather than providing access to it.

Piotr Oczko and Jan Pluis offer a rare glimpse of the use of Dutch tiles in Poland, which not only shows the decorative arts functioning in their intended spaces but also demonstrates the popularity of this art form beyond the Low Countries. This brief survey is a preview of their forthcoming book.

Taken together, these texts suggest avenues for further research while at the same time inviting us to aspire to a more three-dimensional mindset, even when interpreting two-dimensional objects.

Victoria Sancho Lobis is Prince Trust Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago. She has been a member of CODART since 2009.


“The Beautiful is Secret”

That was the wonderful title of the valedictory lecture given by Peter Hecht, who bade farewell as professor of art history at Utrecht University on 29 June 2016. In his lecture he took us on a lightning tour of his career in art history and the developments in Dutch art history. Just as I borrowed the title of my Foreword from Peter Hecht, he in turn borrowed it from Jan Emmens, who added sarcastically: “It should not be talked about. What is talked about ceases to be beautiful. It is no longer secret.” And that is why art historians are generally advised against getting into discussions about quality.

Curator's Project

The Valkhof Citadel

At a stone’s throw from the museum known as Het Valkhof is the park after which the museum is named. This was once the site of a proud medieval citadel where emperors, dukes and stadholders came to stay. After a period of decline and political unrest, virtually the entire Valkhof citadel was demolished in 1797.

Curator's Collection

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder

Although many museums are located in historic buildings, there are few that see the edifice itself as the most important object in their collection. In the case of Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) in Amsterdam, where Thijs Boers was appointed as “curator of the building” in 2006, this is indeed the case. The decision to classify the building as an object led to interesting choices in its restoration and the addition of a new annex, altogether a fifteen-year operation that was completed last year under the supervision of conservation architect Frederik Franken.

Curator's Project

Dutch Tiles in Poland

From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, Dutch tiles enjoyed great fame throughout Europe. Millions were imported from the Netherlands to  decorate the walls of  aristocratic palaces, mansions, and even churches. Tiles also served as “emissaries” of Dutch culture by popularizing the image of the country even more successfully than travel writings, because they adorned thousands of rooms and conveyed images of the country’s landscape and also of its customs

Curator's Project

The Renovation of the KMSKA

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp (KMSKA) is currently undergoing renovation. It is a major operation. The majestic, iconic building at Leopold De Waelplaats dates from the late nineteenth century. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it became apparent that numerous shortcomings would have to be addressed if the building could continue to be used responsibly as a museum: roofs were leaking, the indoor climate was less than ideal, galleries Onbekend objectneeded modernization, there was too little space, and so on.

Curator in the spotlight

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. has served as curator of northern baroque painting at the National Gallery of Art for over forty years, and during that time he also has been Professor of Art History at the University of Maryland, a wonderful combination of museum and academic careers. He has benefitted not only from the support of his museum colleagues, but also from the insights of students, interns and assistants who have worked with him over the years. He is enormously proud of their many achievements, and delighted that so many of them are members of CODART.

Curator's Collection

Architectural Drawings

In an often-quoted passage from his Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Giorgio Vasari describes drawing as the Father of all three arts. Vasari was well aware of the double meaning of the term disegno, referring both to the practice of drawing and to the intellectual design process. Although architectural drawings have attracted some scholarly interest from architectural historians, relatively few studies in the Netherlands are devoted to the tradition of architectural drawing as compared to drawings in the other two areas of the Vasarian triad.


Salomon Lilian Interviewed

Salomon Lilian founded his company, Salomon Lilian Dutch Old Master Paintings, in 1989. It is based in Amsterdam and also has a branch in Geneva. Lilian specializes in paintings by the Dutch Old Masters and publishes an annual catalog with essays about the most important items in his collection. Salomon Lilian became a CODART business sponsor in 2015.


Authentication by the Crowd

The CODART NEGENTIEN Congress, which was held in Madrid from June 19 through June 21, 2016, was attended by 136 CODART members. The event was organized in partnership with Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Museo Lázaro Galdiano and Patrimonio Nacional, and focused on the issue of art-historical attributions and its significance for curators.