The Big Picture



Rieke van Leeuwen

The symposium Collecting Dutch and Flemish Art in Germany 1600-1850 in October 2018 marked the end of the three-year Gerson project on Germany and Central Europe.1 During the conference, a second Gerson publication on Germany was launched, this time dedicated to the 'Nachwirkung', or the impact of Dutch 17th-century painting on German and Central European art in the 18th and 19th centuries.2 The conference was a follow-up to Masters of Mobility : Cultural Exchange between the Netherlands and Germany in the long seventeenth century that had taken place in 2017.3

It was a great pleasure to jointly organise this symposium with the ANKK (Arbeitskreis niederländische Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte), which celebrated its tenth anniversary that year. The topic of collecting Dutch art in Germany was a logical choice for both the RKD and the ANKK, allowing us to join forces.4 In March 2018, we published a Call for Papers and after selecting the submitted proposals, we were able to put together a balanced programme. Fortunately, we found many of the speakers willing to turn their lectures into scientific papers, the proceedings of which we are now pleased to present.

In Horst Gerson's Ausbreitung und Nachwirkung der holländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts (Dispersal and Legacy of Dutch Painting of the 17th Century),5 the collecting history of Dutch art outside the Netherlands occupies an important place. In Gerson terminology, collecting is part of both the 'Ausbreitung' and the 'Nachwirkung'.6 In the 17th century, many travelling Dutch painters found employment at the many courts in Germany and Central Europe and were often at the same time curators of the collection or advisors, giving impetus to the collecting of Netherlandish art in the German countries. But, as Gerson wrote, 'Imported art is always largely dependent on the taste, artistic ambition and resources available to the ruling families'.7 The popularity of Dutch and Flemish art reached great heights in the 18th century and continued into the 19th. Contemporary painters in Germany and Central Europe capitalised on this and started creating works to match the Dutch and Flemish paintings in local collections; some collectors even specifically commissioned counterparts to Dutch and Flemish masters. Several of the articles in this volume describe how the collecting of Dutch and Flemish 17th-century painting coincided with the collecting of contemporary artists in the German countries and Bohemia in the 18th and 19th centuries. For many collectors, the — symmetrical — presentation of their art collection was essential: each work of art was part of the big picture.

I am greatly indebted to the authors of the articles in this volume and to the former members of the ANKK board (2017-2021), Gitta Bertram, Britta Bode, Birgit U. Münch, Almut Pollmer-Schmidt and Friederike Schütt, for their contribution to the editing of this publication.

Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller
Young peasant woman with three childeren in a window, dated 1840
canvas, oil paint 84.6 x 67.5 cm
lower right : Waldmüller 1840
Munich, Neue Pinakothek, inv./ 12895


1 On the Gerson project in general, see

2 Gerson/Van Leeuwen 2018. For the project, data of over 300 collecors in Germany and Central Europe have been added or enhancecd in RKDartists. I thank my volunteers Jan Kosten, Paul van Kooy and Ursula de Goede for contributing to the RKD databases for the Gerson Project. The same goes for my intern (2018) Claudia Hofstee; her paper, which was a result of her internship period, is included in this volume. For the relevant collectors in RKDartists, click here.

3 For the proceedings of the 2017 conference, see Van Leeuwen/Roding et al. 2020.

4 During the Gerson project in 2015-2018, data were collected on more than 300 collectors in Germany and Central Europe; the (Dutch) paintings in their collections in RKDimages were linked to their profiles in RKDartists via provenance data.

5 Gerson 1942/1983.

6 For definitions of works considered 'Ausbreitung' or 'Nachwirkung' in the context of the Gerson project, see Van Leeuwen 2013.

7 Gerson/Van Leeuwen/Roding et al. 2015, p. 2.1.

Cookies disclaimer

Our site saves small pieces of text information (cookies) on your device in order to deliver better content and for statistical purposes. You can disable the usage of cookies by changing the settings of your browser. By browsing our website without changing the browser settings you grant us permission to store that information on your device.
I agree