By Nicholas H.J. Hall
If there is any single trait for which the Dutch nation is best known, it is their aptitude for trading. It was their merchants, combined with their sailors, who built up the most vibrant economy of the 17th century and, springing from that, a culture which continues to fascinate collectors and art historians alike.
Uniting these two was the art dealer, and in this field the Netherlands produced some of the most extraordinary figures of all time. This roll-call includes Lucas van Uffel, who sold Raphael's Portrait of Castiglione in Amsterdam; Hendrick Uylenburgh, Rembrandt's dealer; and Johannes Renialme, originally from Delft, the owner of two paintings by Vermeer, but a man who ultimately made his way in Amsterdam.
It is into this tradition that Jacques Goudstikker falls. A contemporary of Joseph Duveen - whose father, Joel, was also born in Holland - Jacques was himself the son of an art dealer but, like Duveen, he soon outstripped his father in range, ambition and success.
Jacques studied at the Commercial School in Amsterdam but his grounding in art history was found in Leiden and Utrecht, where he studied with W. Martin and W. Vogelsang. In 1919 he joined the gallery owned by his father, Eduard, on the corner of Kalverstraat and Wijde Kapelsteeg in Amsterdam. Immediately, he made his presence felt and introduced a more international style to the gallery. The catalogues were published in French rather than Dutch, and included, for the first time in 1919, two Italian paintings, one of which was The Madonna and Child by Francesco Squarcione, then attributed to his pupil Giorgio Schiavone fig. 1
Holland had for some time, as its economic fortunes declined, become increasingly culturally inward-looking. As early as 1906, the director of the Rijksmuseum, Dr. A. Pit would lament in the forward to an exhibition catalogue "We have become chauvinistic with regard to the field of art. This worship of our old school of painting, which started thirty years ago is still alive and appears not to let us appreciate any foreign art." No one did more to change this attitude in Holland than Goudstikker.
Following the First World War, trade barriers which had been closed were opened up, and Jacques was able to profit from the burgeoning prosperity of Amsterdam, which, during the 1920s, became once more a bubbling center of international commerce. The art trade flourished also; dealers such as de Boer and Douwes, who are still in business today, were Goudstikker's colleagues and competitors.
As Charlotte Wiethoff explains in her seminal article ("The art dealer, Jacques Goudstikker (1897-1940) and his significance in the collecting of early Italian art in the Netherlands," Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, vol. 32, 1981, pp. 249-278), Goudstikker's choices, having decided to bring a more international taste to the gallery, were informed by the preferences of Wilhelm von Bode, who worked for the museums in Berlin until 1920, and who exercised enormous influence in Europe and the United States.
Thus it was that Jacques Goudstikker's catalogues mingled examples of art from the Dutch Golden Age with panels by 14th, 15th and 16th century Dutch, Flemish, German and Italian painters. It was Bode, too, who endorsed the way such works were presented, mixing carpets, works of art, sculpture and painting in interiors which not only evoked a medieval sentiment but allowed the qualities of the flat and plastic arts to speak to each other. fig. 2
This approach to the installation of works of art was, if unique among Dutch dealers, generally the vogue among sophisticated dealers and collectors in England, Paris and New York. Joseph Duveen would have felt quite at home in Goudstikker's grander gallery space at Herengracht 458, which he opened in 1927, and the Nijenrode Castle, one of the Goudstikker's two country homes in which he entertained his clients and showed his wares as much as he did in his gallery in Amsterdam. fig. 3
Jacques worked directly with both collectors and academics who shared his taste. Perhaps the single most influential academic in Goudstikker's career was the Dutch scholar Raimond van Marle, author of the famous The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. It was no doubt van Marle who helped him choose much of his Italian stock; indeed, in the introduction to his 1928 catalogue, Jacques wrote "The Italian works take and will continue to take in our house a more and more preponderant part. Also, we are happy as a logical develop-ment in our Italian department in having obtained the assistance of our compatriot Doctor Raimond van Marle."
In this circle where art, commerce and scholarship were joined, Jacques enjoyed the custom of a number of major collectors whose own homes were mirrors of Jacques', and vice-versa. Chief among them were the sugar magnate J.W. Edwin vom Rath and Detlen Van Hadeln, both of whom bequeathed their collections to the Rijksmuseum. This group also included van Heek, Proehl and, most interesting of all, Otto Lanz, an academic born in Switzerland who settled in Amsterdam in 1902 and who once had a case of paintings imported from Italy labeled "dangerous snakes" to deter the inquisitive customs inspector.
More important, however, to the future of Holland's patrimony was Goudstikker's conversion of the Rotterdam industrialist Daniel G. van Beuningen to the cause of international art. Van Beuningen also bought examples by Watteau, Chardin, Strozzi and Tiepolo and acquired Goudstikker's mysterious Boy with Dogs in a Landscape by Titian. fig. 4
Jacques Goudstikker's beautifully designed and printed catalogues were remarkable for the quality of their production and underline Jacques' commitment to making an art form of art dealing. However, it would be naive to be blind to his business acumen as well. For every Madonna and Child by Pacchiarotti there was a Winter Landscape by Hendrick Avercamp or Aert van der Neer. Among his greatest clients was Heinrich Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, who purchased for Schloss Rohoncz a number of superb paintings from Goudstikker, among them a rare still life by Jan van der Heyden (fig. 5 ) and a panoramic landscape by Philip Koninck (fig. 6 ), who is also represented in the New York sale.
Highlights from the Goudstikker gallery would also include the Hieronymous Bosch Christ Carrying the Cross, now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (fig. 7 ), and the much debated Young Girl with a Flute by Vermeer, which Goudstikker exhibited in the "Pulchri studio" in The Hague (fig. 8 ) in 1919. A buyer was not easily found, perhaps unsurprising given the princely asking price of 325,000 guilders. The painting was then loaned to the Alte Pinakothek in Munich and thence sold through Knoedler to Joseph Widener, who gave it to the National Gallery, Washington, in 1942.
The National Gallery is not the only American museum to whom Goudstikker sold paintings. In 1929, the Metropolitan Museum in New York purchased a large altarpiece by Luca Signorelli depicting The Assumption of the Virgin with Saints Michael and Benedict (fig. 9 ); three years later the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas acquired Pesellino's King David before the Ark of the Covenant (fig. 10 ) from Goudstikker. Perhaps nothing speaks so eloquently to the distance that Jacques Goudstikker and his gallery had traveled than the fact that, in 1932, he was selling a panel by Pesellino to a museum in Kansas City.
In common with all major European art dealers, Jacques had established contacts with the United States, exhibiting in 1923 at the Anderson Gallery in New York. He brought with him at that time only Dutch and Flemish paintings-including five van Goghs, two van Dongens and a Mondrian, together with a group of 17th-century pictures, among them the magnificent wooded landscape by Philips Koninck, offered now in the New York sale.
That exhibition was organized through the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce; the Committee of Patrons numbered such society figures as Mrs. T.J. Oakley Rhinelander and Mrs. Cortland S. Van Rensselaer. However, although more research needs to be done, one can be sure that Goudstikker, like Colnaghis, would have worked with indigenous American dealers such as Knoedler to help them sell to American collectors and museums.
After the Wall Street crash and the subsequent depression, life became increasingly hard for dealers everywhere. The production of Goudstikker's lavish hallmark catalogues slowed down (fig. 11 ). During the 1930s he organized a Rubens exhibition (1933) and, most importantly, he was a prime mover behind the exhibition of Italian Paintings in Dutch Collections held at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (fig. 12 ) in 1934. This, despite the gloomy economic backdrop, was the ultimate affirmation of his achievements as a dealer in Holland. The opening was attended by Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands, who he personally escorted around the exhibition.
Looking back over the catalogues which Jacques produced and at the group of paintings which were recently restituted to his heir, one is tempted to look for signs of what characterizes a Goudstikker picture: what is Goudstikker taste?
Jacques' range was enormous; it included modern art and embraced sculpture, notably the Madonna and Child attributed to Donatello recently acquired by the Kimbell Museum (fig. 13 ), but the bulk of what he dealt in was Old Master paintings. He did not deal in Italian Baroque paintings; he did not stray deep into the 18th century, despite notable pictures such as the Longhi and the Boucher.
He seems not to have dealt in artists such as the Fijnschilders, but to have handled great examples by Jan Steen, Isaack and Adriaen van Ostade and the tonal landscape painters, especially Jan van Goyen and Salomon van Ruysdael. He owned a number of paintings by Jan van der Heyden, the most remarkable being of his own castle at Nijenrode (fig. 14 ).
He did handle still lifes, of which the van Huysum in the National Gallery is a beautiful example (fig. 15 ), but Jacques seems to have been more drawn to the figure painters, be they portraitists such as Ravesteyn or Verspronck or subject painters like Bol, Aert de Gelder or even Jan Steen, by whom Goudstikker owned two major compositions.
As has been noted, Jacques was a particular proponent of early painting, Dutch, German, Flemish and, of course, Italian, however, he seems to have been especially attracted to those artists who painted with a stylized line, to Cranach (fig. 16 ), to Marco Zoppo (fig. 17 ), to Squarcione and to Pesellino. Even his great Giottesque panel is strikingly Sienese in its linear construction and was indeed catalogued by him as by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Goudstikker was a dealer whose imagination seems to have been excited by the offbeat and the unconventional and one is surprised not to find Ferranese artists figuring more prominently in his inventory.
The art world benefits enormously from figures such as Jacques Goudstikker, whose exhibitions would have surprised and educated their audiences in equal measure. It was therefore a tragedy that such a remarkable figure should die so young. However we hope that this historic series of sales at Christie's, and the catalogues which will accompany them, will go some way in restoring memory of a unique figure in the history of the art world, a man whose vision and enthusiasm is evident not only in these catalogues but also on the walls of great museums around the world.
Nicholas H.J. Hall, International Department Head, Old Master Paintings