Reclaimed: Paintings From the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker at The Jewish Museum is partly an exhibition of Dutch, Northern Baroque, and Southern Renaissance paintings, and more interestingly, the story of a Dutch Jewish art collector and taste maker, the Nazi looting of his collection, and the eventual restitution, decades later, of part of the collection to his heirs.
Jacques Goudstikker’s grandfather had founded the Goudstikker gallery and his father was an art dealer as well. After studying in Amsterdam, Leiden and Utrecht, Jacques joined the family business at age 22. He brought immediate drastic change to the Goudstikker Gallery as well as the entire Dutch art market by showing not only old Dutch Masters, but also Italian Renaissance painting, early Northern painting, and modern European painting. He curated thematic as well as monographic exhibitions at his own gallery and other museums. These exhibitions were accompanied by elegant catalogs which he often wrote himself and some of which are on view here.
Goudstikker married the Viennese opera singer DÃ©sirÃ©e von Halban Kurz (DÃ©si.) and the two had a son, Edo. Goudstikker moved his family and the gallery to a mansion on a canal in Amsterdam and entertained guests at his country estate at Nijenrode Castle.Â The exhibition includes a painting from Goudstikker’s collection by Jan van der Heyden of the castle.
Jan van der Heyden, View of Nyenrode Castle on the Vecht, late 17th-early 18th century, Image via Museum Security
In 1940, as German forces approached Amsterdam the Goudstikkers found escape on the S.S. Bodegraven. While crossing the English Channel, Goudstikker fell in the dark through an open hatch into one of the ship’s holds and was killed by the fall. The exhibition includes the brief, devastating telegram DÃ©si sent to alert family members of the accident. A black notebook (now known as the Blackbook) in which Goudstikker meticulously recorded his inventory of paintings, was found on his body. DÃ©si, Edo and the Blackbook went on to Canada, eventually settling in the United States.
Within weeks of Goudstikker’s death, Nazis looted the Goudstikker Gallery which had about 1400 works. Reichsmarschall Hermann GÃ¶ring took hundreds of paintings for himself, and some were given to Hitler for a museum he was planning in Linz- the Fuhrermuseum. Over DÃ©si’s objections, Goudstikker’s gallery and country estates were transferred in a forced sale to a German banker, Alois Miedl, who continued to operate the gallery throughout the war.
Immediately after the war the Allied forces recovered approximately 200 of the looted paintings and returned them to the Netherlands, expecting them to be returned to the rightful owners. Instead, these works remained in the Dutch government’s national collections.
Goudstikker’s Blackbook was the key piece of evidence in the family’s legal battles to reclaim the works of art. Now on display in a vitrine at the Jewish Museum, the Blackbook is opened to a page featuring names such as Rubens and Rembrandt. Visitors may flip through all the pages of a virtual version of the Blackbook on touch-screen monitors. There is also a really cool website where you can flip through the book: http://www.goudstikkerblackbook.info/
(It may take a minute to load but it’s worth it.)
In 2006, the Dutch government returned 202 works to Goudstikker’s only living heir, his daughter-in-law and Edo’s wife, Marei von Saher. Reclaimed presents about fifty of these works. Reclaimed was originally on view at the Bruce Museum in Connecticut and will continue to other American museums.
Reclaimed: Paintings From the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker is on view at The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Ave (92nd Street), New York, NY through August 2, 2009.
Goudstikker [The Jewish Museum Website]
Tale of Return, Vividly Illustrated [New York Times]
Old Masters Reclaimed [Museum Security Network]
A Life’s Work Looted by the Nazis [Jewish Week]
Jacques Goudstikker [Wikipedia]
One of my favorites:
Jacob Isaacksz van Ruisdael (1628/9 – 1682), Sailing Vessels in a Thunderstorm, (Date unknown, but early)
Image via Bruce Museum.
P.S. Goudstikker’s collection included works by Jan Steen,Â Adriaen van Ostade, Isaac van Ostade, Jan van Goyen, Salomon van Ruysdael, Jacob van Ruisdael, Simon de Vlieger, Jacopo del Casantino, Francois Boucher, Pietro Longhi, Pacchiarotti, Hieronymous Bosch, Vermeer, Luca Signorelli, Pesellino, and Phillips Koninck.