Ex-libris of V.W. van Gogh, designed by J.H.G. Cohen Gosschalk
The Van Gogh Museum library
Ex-libris of M.E. Tralbaut, designed by Antal Fery
catalogues on Van Gogh, as well as newspaper articles and photographs of the places the Dutch artist had immortalised. Earlier that year, Tralbaut had won a prize for his ‘International Van Gogh Archive,’ as he called the collection, from the Algemeen Nederlands Verbond.5 Consisting of over 2,000 books and articles, the collection was assigned a separate status: every item was given a number beginning with a ‘T,’ for Tralbaut. Although the Belgian continued to expand the collection at the institution's expense, subsequent acquisitions were not given a T number, but a BVG shelf mark. To distinguish his own collection, Tralbaut had an ex-libris designed by the Hungarian artist Antal Fery (fig. 2), but the design was never carried out.6
The books of Vincent, Theo and other family members
The second part of the Van Gogh family library, consisting of some 2,000 titles, was moved to the Museum two months after the opening. Thanks to the entry V.W. van Gogh penned in his journal on 18 August 1973, we know exactly when this occurred.7 Rather than simply incorporating these books into the pre-existing BVW collection, the library gave them a BVG number.
Edmond de Goncourt, Chérie (1884), with the signature of Vincent van Gogh
This second shipment comprised the most interesting material. It contained the only book known with certainty to have belonged to Vincent: Edmond de Goncourt's novel Chérie, in which the artist wrote his name with a red crayon. Interestingly, he signed only with his first name (fig. 3), as in his paintings, drawings, and letters to Theo.8 The book, which is also stamped with the name of Theo's wife Jo van Gogh-Bonger, contains a pressed flower, probably put there by Jo. Judging from its inscription, a portfolio with six lithographs by Charles Emmanuel Serret must also have belonged to the artist: ‘à monsieur Vincent van Gogh en témoignage de bonne amitié, Charles Serret’. A third book of Vincent's re-entered the family collection in 1972 and thus later came into the Museum's possession:9 the Recueil de psaumes et cantiques à l'usage des églises réformées (1865) was used by the artist for his evangelical work in the Belgian Borinage. Van Gogh underlined or circled certain passages and also made some notes in it.10 The psalter has a mahogany case, presumably of a later date, and was inscribed at the front and back by Pasteur Secretan (see fn. 9).11
There may well be other books and periodicals that once belonged to Vincent but which can no longer be iden-
tified as such. By comparison, more of the original contents of Theo's library can be distinguished. Two examples are a Bible his parents gave him in 1870 and Het boek der psalmen, published in 1848, which contains his bookmark. His signature helps identify others, such as the catalogues of the exhibitions devoted to Courbet and Manet in 1882 and 1884,12 and a collection of poems by Carel Vosmaer entitled Vogels van diverse pluimage of 1879. Likewise signed by Theo are Monsieur, madame et bébé by Gustave Droz (1878) and Légendes des artistes by J. Collin de Plancy (1842). The latter may have been given him by his brother, who wrote in 1877: ‘Do you have De Plancy's Légendes des artistes, with wood engravings after Rochussen? I hope to bring it for you.’13 The library also contains two books dedicated to Theo by their respective authors: Critique d'avant-garde by Théodore Duret (1885) and Amoureux d'art by Jean Dolent (1888), with an original etching by Eugène Carrière. Various books can be linked to Theo on the basis of notes by his son Vincent Willem van Gogh: in a copy of Stendhal's Le rouge et le noir (n.d.), for example, Vincent Willem wrote ‘This belonged to Theo van Gogh in Paris!’ Other volumes inscribed with Theo's name are Contes de la reine de Navarre by L'Heptaméron (n.d.), a booklet featuring snap-shots of Rouen, a French-English pocket dictionary, and an illustrated guide to Paris in 1867. Finally, there are books Jo inscribed with nothing more than ‘Van Gogh,’ which of course does not tell us to which brother they belonged. Several are mentioned in Vincent's correspondence, such as La faute de l'abbé Mouret by Emile Zola (1878).
Dozens of books in the collection stem from Theo's wife Jo van Gogh-Bonger, including various literary works. Despite the fact that they are stamped with her name, some of them may once have been Theo's. One example is Alphonse Karr's Voyage autour de mon jardin (1851), beautifully illustrated with hand-coloured prints. Although stamped by Jo, Vincent's letter of 10 August 1874 suggests it was originally Theo's: ‘With the money of mine that you have buy Alphonse Karr's Voyage autour de mon jardin; don't forget, as I want you to read it.’14 The most personal of Jo's books is her illustrated birthday motto book and nature calendar, with dried flowers still pressed between some of the pages. Besides members of her family, it includes friends such as the artists Lizzy Ansingh and Eva Seelig, and Marie Sèthe, wife of Henry van de Velde. Jo also owned the art critic Albert Plasschaert's Vincent van Gogh: reproducties naar zijne werken (1898) and L'ésthétique fondamentale et traditionelle d'après les
maîtres de tous les temps (1910) by Emile Bernard, both gifts from their respective authors.15
Some books in the collection are valuable not only because they once belonged to Vincent's family, but also because of the notes they made in them. For instance, the copy of the book by Vincent's sister Elisabeth H. du Quesne-van Gogh, Vincent van Gogh: persoonlijke herinneringen aangaande een kunstenaar (Baarn 1910), is filled with corrections pencilled in by Jo. The tone of Lies's dedication is somewhat impersonal: ‘To my Sister-in-Law from the Author.’ Jo rejected many of Lies's assumptions about Vincent. Beside the statement ‘He was alienated from his brothers and sisters,’ for example, Jo wrote ‘Theo said he so enjoyed playing with Vincent.’16 In the same fashion, Jo dismissed as ‘nonsense’ Lies's claim that Vincent was averse to every form of influence and imitation.17 Characteristic of Lies's casual approach to history is the final paragraph of her essay, where she states that Van Gogh painted his sunflowers in Auvers. ‘Wrong,’ wrote Jo in the margin rather bluntly, ‘they were made in Arles.’18 Nor did De Hollandsche schilderkunst in de negentiende eeuw by G. Hermine Marius escape the critical gaze of the family: V.W. van Gogh denied that Theo ever made the statement about the Borinage drawings which the author attributed to him: ‘Now you'll see something! Vincent is busy drawing; someday he'll be a second Rembrandt!’ Beside it, the engineer wrote ‘imagination of Miss M.’19
The second part of the shipment also contained books from other Van Goghs. One of these, the Bible of Vincent's father Reverend Theodorus van Gogh, also passed through the hands of Elisabeth du Quesne-Van Gogh before being presented to the Museum in the 1970s by her granddaughter, Hubertine van Donk-Kooiman. In 1988 a second Bible, which also belonged to Reverend van Gogh, was permanently lent to the Museum20; this is the same book Vincent immortalised in his still life Open bible, extinguished candle and Zola's ‘La joie de vivre’. Of all the religious books the painter knew, this particular Bible must have held the greatest significance for him. In this case it was not the scriptures that stirred his emotions as much as the fact that it had belonged to his late father.21 Shortly after finishing the still life Vincent sent the Bible to Theo.22
Of great value to Van Gogh research are the albums of early clippings. One such album contains cuttings about Vincent from the period 1890-1925, which were collected
Vincent van Gogh, scetches of a hen and a cock, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
by his sister-in-law Jo. There are also six other books of this type. Two comprise articles about the artist, the one kept by Jo's brother, the art dealer Andries Bonger between 1890 and 1914, and the other by the family from the late 1930s and the mid-1950s. Two others were kept by the Van Gogh specialist J.-B. de la Faille, with articles from the 1930s about forgeries of Van Gogh's work; this is supplemented by a collection of clippings about a forgery that came to light in 1949. Finally, there is an album with newspaper cuttings from the period 1932-44. The library also preserves a scrapbook kept by Jo's second husband, Johan Cohen Gosschalk, with articles he had written.
Aside from these scrapbooks, there are also newspaper articles about Vincent van Gogh in the archive of the library. M.E. Tralbaut's contributions formed the basis of this collection, to which new information is constantly being added. Much of this material consists of documentation regarding Van Gogh exhibitions worldwide. Tralbaut's collection is far from complete in this respect, the majority of his cuttings dating from the mid-1940s or later. The older material in the library, comprising clip-
pings about, catalogues of, and invitations to exhibitions, was gathered by V.W. van Gogh and his mother Jo van Gogh-Bonger.
A new direction
In the years immediately following the Museum's establishment, the acquisition policy of the library focused primarily on Vincent van Gogh. Hence the purchase of the archive of the American journalist Edouard Buckman (d. 1973) in January 1975. Although it did not contain much literature about Van Gogh beyond what the library already possessed, the collection did comprise a drawing by Vincent van Gogh which can be traced to the seventh and last sketchbook (fig. 4).23 Buckman, whose greatest achievement was the compilation of an exhaustive bibliography on the artist, had received the sheet from the son of Vincent's friend, Dr Paul Gachet. His correspondence with Gachet forms part of the archive.
The library's acquisition policy did not change until 1986, in concert with that of the Van Gogh Museum as a whole, which now focuses less exclusively on the Dutch painter. The library began to expand, purchasing both the newest literature on 19th century art in general and historical sources, such as Le Japon illustré by Aimé Humbert (1870). Humbert's work complements the sources that were already in the library, such as Samuel Bing's Le Japon artistique: documents d'art et d'industrie (1888-90). Another fine acquisition (1993) was Baudelaire's Les fleurs du mal with prints by the Swiss Symbolist Carlos Schwabe (1866-1926) (fig. 5). The rarest of all the books illustrated by Schwabe, Les fleurs du mal is considered the culmination of his work in this area. It appeared in 1900 in a limited edition of 77 numbered exemplars and was originally intended
Carlos Schwabe, La Mort, from Charles Baudelaire, Les fleurs du mal, 1900
only for friends of the artist.24 The Van Gogh Museum's copy belonged to the Swiss publisher Charles Eggimann, who collaborated repeatedly with Schwabe.
Apart from smaller acquisitions, the gap in historical source material was filled in part by the purchase of
the library of the Amsterdam artists' association Arti et Amicitiae in 1992. As other large art libraries were established in the course of the 20th century, the Arti library, founded in the 19th, gradually fell into disuse. Meeting the scholarly needs of the Van Gogh Museum gave it a new lease on life, allowing it to remain in the capital and not be dispersed. Indeed, the sale of the collection was contingent upon its being kept intact. Most of the books were bound by the Amsterdam bindery of Elias P. van Bommel and stamped in gold with the name of the association on the spine, but unfortunately they were not in very good condition. After the library was moved to the Van Gogh Museum, funds allocated especially for conservation by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Cultural Affairs under the so-called Delta Plan were used to restore the leather bindings in particular. The work was carried out on the spot by a team of book restorers under the direction of Ada Teitler-Terweij.
Arti et Amicitiae and its library
Arti et Amicitiae was founded in 1839, the library less than a year later. The ‘absence in our country of a satisfactory public institution of similar nature’ was deemed sufficient reason for Arti to set up an art library on its own. It was thought that such a library would enable the association to influence the ‘cultural and spiritual development of its members, especially the artists.’25 The acquisition policy reflected the educational purpose of the library and strictly avoided ‘contentious political and theological writings.’26 The association had a special interest in professional literature beyond the financial reach of its membership. However, much of its budget was earmarked for periodicals, on which the members relied for news of the contemporary art world. The periodicals were freely available in the common room of the association. Starting in 1954 a portfolio with journals was even circulated among the members in Amsterdam. Although there are still many important periodicals in the collection, numerous issues have unfortunately been lost.
Arti experienced its greatest florescence between its foundation in 1839 and 1875. As one would expect, it was during this period that the core of the library was formed. The composition of the collection was largely determined by the first two generations of member-artists, especially the members of the board. The first group included such well-known personages and founders of the association as the portrait and history painter Jan Willem Pieneman, the French engraver A. Benoit Taurel, the history and genre painter Jan Adam Kruseman, the architect Martinus Gerardus Tetar van Elven and the sculptor Louis Royer, all of whom taught at the Amsterdam academy.27 These artists were followed in the 1870s by the painters Conradijn Cunaeus, Johan Conrad Greive, Jr, Jan Hendrik Maschhaupt, the engraver Charles Edouard Taurel and the architect Johan Harmanus Lehman, among others.28 It was these conservative artists who determined association policy until 1893.
The association often asked the membership to support the library. ‘It would be too costly and exceed our budget if we now had to purchase so many works at our own expense,’ was the board's usual justification.29 Particularly in the first years, the library owed its expansion to its generous benefactors. Many members donated books to Arti; in exchange the society published their names and the corresponding titles in its annual reports. The painter Valentijn Bing, for instance, one of Arti's first members, donated his Den eerste Boeck van Architecture Sebastiani Serlii / tracteerende van Geometrie (1606) to the library in 1856. In the same way, the portrait and genre painter Henri J. Zimmerman presented the library with a superb edition of the Gustave Doré Bible in 1877. Arti's first president, J.W. Pieneman, donated the fine Splendor magnificentissimae urbis Venetiarum clarissimus (n.d.). Others contributed to the collection frequently, such as the portrait and figure painter J.H. Maschhaupt, who served as librarian from his first year of membership in 1872 until 1895. He tended to stamp the books he gave with his name, and sometimes also signed them. Many of the older books in the Arti library belonged to him, including the artists' biography Inleyding tot de Hooge Schoole der Schilderkonst anders de Zichtbare
Werelt (1678) by Samuel van Hoogstraten. The smallest, leather-bound volume in the collection, Nouveau traité de la civilité qui se pratique en France parmi les honnestes gens (1690), was also donated by him, as was a copy of Disegno by Anton Francesco Doni from 1549; it is described as rarissime in the annual report of 1876.30 Other generous benefactors were such prominent artists as Jac van Looy and August Allebé, who was director of the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam from 1880 until 1906; the latter donated such works as the hermetic text Harmonie universelle (1861) by Louis Delbeke.
The annual reports also list many donations received from art-loving (as opposed to artistic) members. Although not a member, King Willem III donated a display copy of the 14-volume Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles (1849-76) by Charles Blanc in 1876. Art dealers also contributed to the library. The Amsterdam bookseller and art dealer C.M. van Gogh, for example, an uncle of Vincent's who organised viewings at Arti, donated a number of collection catalogues. From the art dealer H.G. Tersteeg, Vincent's superior during his employment at the Hague branch of the dealers Goupil & Cie, the association received the two-volume sale catalogue of the Secrétan Collection in 1889.
The board of Arti encouraged all writers to share the ‘fruits of their erudition and talent’ with the artistic community.31 This explains the library's possession of a number of privately published books, such as the three-volume Dutch edition of Dante's La divina commedia, translated by Johan Conrad Hacke van Mijnden in 1867, and the rare, two-volume Brieven en dagboek van A.G. Bilders of 1876, edited and published by Johannes Kneppelhout and presented to Arti by his widow. This latter is particularly interesting to the Van Gogh Museum, since Vincent knew the work and wrote about it at great length in a letter to Theo.32 Noteworthy, too, is the collection of articles about Arti (1891) with a cover-drawing by Charles Edouard Taurel (fig. 6). Many of the books in the library are signed by their authors, but this does not always mean they were donated by them. Souvenirs sur Théodore Rousseau (1872) by Alfred Sensier, for example, bears the author's dedication to the artist Jules Bouneau, just as Causeries sur le paysage (1877) by the French painter and engraver Hector
Original drawing by Charles Edouard Taurel on the cover of an offprint from the ten-volume work C.E. Taurel, Oud en Nieuw op het gebied van kunst en kunstnijverheid in Holland en België, 1889-92
Allemand is dedicated to Johan Philip van der Kellen, director of the Rijksprentenkabinet at the time.
In the later years of the century, the arrival of a younger generation of artist-members, including exponents of the Hague School, the Amsterdam Impressionists and the so-called Tachtigers, heralded a period of unrest for Arti, marked by conflicts between the old and new guards. The innovators found it difficult to gain a firm foothold in the artists' association, which was uncomfortable with their progressive ideas.33 That the leaders of the new groups, such as Jozef and Isaac Israëls, Jacob and Willem Maris and George Hendrik Breitner, remain unmentioned in the library's annual reports is therefore not surprising - although it should be noted that no reports were published between
Invitation to the art viewing of 25 February 1892 at Arti et Amicitiae given by Jo van Gogh-Bonger
1878 and 1886. Van Gogh himself bemoaned Arti's conservatism during this period in a letter to his sister, Wil, of June 1888: ‘You ask whether I sent something to the Arti exhibition. Certainly not! Only, Theo sent Mr Tersteeg a consignment of pictures by Impressionist painters, and among them there was one of mine. But the only result has been that neither Tersteeg nor the artists [i.e. of Arti], as Theo informed me, have seen anything in them.’34 It was only two years after his death in 1890 - i.e. in 1892 - that Van Gogh's work was included in an exhibition at Arti, namely in the show which accompanied the celebrations the University of Amsterdam held every five years. The preface to the catalogue tells us something about the reason for this exceptionally successful exhibition: ‘This collection has been assembled to make us mindful of the strength of the art produced in the Netherlands over the past 20 years.’35 Four months before the exhibition opened, Jo van Gogh-Bonger had held a viewing of Van Gogh's work, also at Arti et Amicitiae, a ticket to which is preserved by the Van Gogh Museum (fig. 7).
A changing of the guard at Arti in 1893, which was coupled with a new flexibility in policy, had no appreciable consequences for the library. The number of gifts had already declined in the course of the 1880s and this situation did not change. Little is known about the actual functioning of the library during this period. As of old, a librarian was elected or re-elected each year. From the foundation of the association until the turn of the century these were the artists Alexander Oltmans (1840-1853), Charles Rochussen (1853-1856), David van der Kellen (1856-1872),36 Jan Hendrik Maschhaupt (1872-1895), Ernst Witkamp (1895-1897),37 and Cornelis Gerardus 't Hooft (1898-1918).38 Like the previous group of innovators, other early 20th-century artist-members felt little affinity with Arti. This was especially true of those who espoused new movements such as Fauvism and Luminism.39 Their lack of activity in the association is perhaps the reason why such famous members of the time as Jan Toorop, Jan Sluijters, Leo Gestel and Piet Mondrian are not mentioned in the annals of the library.
A brief survey of the collection
The library of Arti et Amicitiae can tell us a great deal about the sources the artist-members could draw upon in seeking to master their craft. One is immediately struck by the enormous diversity of the collection. The term ‘visual art’ was broadly conceived from the outset, as evidenced by
De Secreten van den eervverdigen Heere Alexis Piemontois, 1571
an 1840 report on the formation of the new library: ‘There is [...] a plan for establishing a library of works concerning the visual arts, to which history, poetry, historical novels, as well as prints, illustrated books and so forth also belong.’40
The library included not only the usual drawing, painting, and perspective manuals, but also histories, travelogues and books about archaeology, topography, architecture, anatomy, and physiognomy, as well as compilations on costumes and weaponry. The principal artists' biographies, such as Carel van Mander's Schilder-boeck of 1604, formed part of the collection, as did encyclopedic works, for example, Brockhaus's Allgemeine Deutsche Real-Encyclopädie für die gebildeten Stände or Conversations-Lexicon (1851-55) and the Algemeene Nederlandsche Encyclopedie voor den beschaafden stand (1865-70), which is based on it. Nor were acquisitions limited to 19th-century literature. Dozens of 17th- and 18th-century sources were acquired, and even several dating from the 16th. Indeed, the oldest book in the collection is an annotated prescription book dating from 1571, De Secreten van den eervverdigen Heere Alexis Piemontois. Inhoudende zeer excellente en wel gheapprobeerde Remedien / teghen veelverhande cranckheden / wonden / en andere acciden: Met de maniere van te distilleren / perfumeren / confituren maken / te verwen / coleuren / ende ghieten (fig. 8).41
At first Arti's library also comprised works of art, as indicated by the previously quoted report of 1840 and by the old stamp of the library, which read ‘collection of books and art works.’ The artworks involved were usually prints produced by members, but drawings are also mentioned, and there was even a portrait bust in plaster. None of these objects have remained in the collection. There is, however, a file with 14 anatomical drawings by Ploos van Amstel,42 along with a number of other books on the subject of anatomy, both human and animal. Rather bizarre are seven photographs of the so-called Verzameling van voorwerpen van
The ex-libris of the Amsterdam merchant, art collector and patron Josephus Augustinus Brentano (1753-1821)
kunst, a colourful collection of, among other things, anatomical models, an ape skeleton and copies of ancient statues amassed by the Utrecht physician H.C.A.L. Fock.43
Many of the works in the Arti library have a history of their own, which occasionally enhances the value of the collection. For example, there is the deluxe edition of Rembrandt, sa vie, son oeuvre et son temps by Emile Michel, presented by Arti et Amicitiae in 1896 to the association's departing second secretary, the artist Ferdinand G.M. Oldewelt.44 Another fine example of a book with an added value is the three-volume, 17th-century work by Joachim von Sandrart. The first two volumes contain his Teutsche Academie der edlen Bau-, Bild- und Malereykünste, while the third volume comprises the Iconologia Deorum oder Abbildung der Götter, as well as a biography of Sandrart (1675) and Carl van Mander's P. Ovidii Nas Metamorphosis, in German translation (1679). Before finding their way into the library of Arti et Amicitiae, the three volumes passed through the hands of various owners. The books originally belonged to the Amsterdam merchant, art collector and patron Josephus Augustinus Brentano (1753-1821), as evidenced by his ex-libris and signature (fig. 9).45
A particularly interesting part of the Arti library is formed by the manuscripts, which total eight. One of them - the Beschrijving der Schetsen in Olieverw betreffende de Geschiedenis van Nederland Beginnende met het jaar 40 en Eindigende met het jaar 1861 - was written by the Amsterdam art collector and patron Jacob de Vos, who became an honourary member of Arti in 1857. The text consists of a series of anecdotes based on Dutch history. They were written by De Vos as a commentary on his historical gallery, which consisted of 253 oil sketches and ten sculptures. We know Vincent van Gogh was acquainted with the collection: on 3 March 1878 he wrote to Theo: ‘Did you know Rochussen once painted the Siege of Leiden? I believe the painting now belongs to Mr De Vos.’46 It was Charles Rochussen's Relief of Leiden, executed in 1853, that Vincent had in mind. The art collection, commissioned by De Vos in its entirety, passed to Arti following the death of his widow, but was sold by the association in 1895. While Arti held on to the manuscript, the picture collection was acquired by the City of Amsterdam in 1897. Word and image were not reunited until 1991, in the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition Heroes of the nation in the Amsterdams Historisch Museum.47
Of the remaining seven manuscripts, five originally derive from the collection of the 18th-century merchant Cornelis Ploos van Amstel (1726-1798). All five are translations of other works. It is known that Ploos van Amstel had
fig. 10 Catalogue of the Jacob Maris exhibition, Amsterdam (Arti et Amicitiae), December 1899
texts of friends and kindred spirits, as well as his own, written out in calligraphy, sometimes in several exemplars.48 How the manuscripts found their way into the Arti library is not known. We do know, however, that the collection was once much larger, for in 1948 more than 40 items were donated by the association to the Rijksprentenkabinet.49 Two of the manuscripts that remained with the library are contained in made-to-measure cardboard cases: the Verhandeling over de Schilderkunst door Leonard de Vinci uyt het Frans vertaald and the Historie der Kunsten die Betrekking hebben tot het Teekenen.50 Another manuscript, the Verhandeling over de Kunst eens Kenners, falsely registered in the Arti library as a separate publication, originally formed part of the Dutch translation of the Richardsons' Essay on the theory of painting of 1715, also in the collection and here entitled Over de schilder- en beeldhouwkunst. Finally, there are two manuscripts on architecture: Verhandeling over de natuur der Grondregelen van de Bouwkunst and Verhandeling over de Historie van de Bouwkunst.
The most sizeable manuscript in the library of Arti et Amicitiae is the nine-volume, anonymous Dutch translation of various works by the German founder of classical archaeology, Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Six volumes of the manuscript are devoted to his Geschichte der Kunst
des Altertums, here entitled Van de Konst der Oudheyd. One of the other texts in the series is Winckelmann's Sendschreiben von den Herkulanischen Entdeckungen, translated as Zendbrief van de Herculiaansche ontdekkingen. Although Niemeijer (see fn. 49) makes no mention of it, this manuscript could conceivably also have belonged to Ploos van Amstel, who was a contemporary of Winckelmann.
Another category of the Arti library is formed by sale and exhibition catalogues. It, however, comprises only a few Salon catalogues and most of the Levende Meesters volumes are also missing. Remarkably enough, the library does not even contain all the catalogues of the association's own exhibitions. These were almost exclusively kept in the association's archive.51 An exception is the catalogue of the Jacob Maris exhibition, held in December 1899. Particularly noteworthy in this catalogue are the interior photographs of the exhibition, with the names of the owners of the works written on them in pen and ink (fig. 10). There is also a similar album in the collection with photographs of the Rembrandt exhibition organised by Cornelis Hofstede de Groot - in co-operation with Arti et Amicitiae - on the occasion of Queen Wilhelmina's inauguration in 1898.52 The large deluxe edition of the catalogue, which appeared following the exhibition, was acquired by the library in 1899 (fig. 11). It comprises 40 loose-leaf photoengravings after Rembrandt's ‘best pictures’ and a text written by the organiser of the exhibition. The stunning portfolio containing the reproductions of the exhibited works with batiked parchment on the back and at the corners, was designed by Carel Adolph Lion Cachet, himself a member of Arti.
Recently acquired literary sources for the works of Vincent van Gogh
Within less than a year of the purchase of the library of Arti et Amicitiae another important collection was acquired by the Van Gogh Museum: the collection of Vincent's literary sources which had been amassed by Jaap Brouwer, a Dutch antiquarian who lives in France. For years, the Van Gogh Museum had been actively reconstructing the artist's own ‘library.’ An avid reader,
Catalogue of the Rembrandt exhibition by C. Hofstede de Groot, Amsterdam (Stedelijk Museum), September-October 1898
Vincent was very fond of literature, but the Van Gogh family library contained only a fraction of the books he is known to have read. Because this material is so indispensable to the study of the artist, there was no choice but to try and purchase the missing books. The very first catalogue of the permanent collection, The Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, published in 1987, contains a complete list of the works known to Van Gogh, compiled by Fieke Pabst and Evert van Uitert. The list made it possible to start filling the gaps in the collection.53 With the purchase of Brouwer's collection, this process was finally completed in 1993.
When, in the mid-1970s, Brouwer did some research on Vincent's friend, the artist Anthon van Rappard, he realised what a handicap the lack of sources was. Indeed, this
is what prompted him to start collecting the books and periodicals Van Gogh knew. In the early 1980s he acquired the library of the art critic Albert C.A. Plasschaert (1874-1941).54 This was a stroke of luck, for Plasschaert himself had collected books that inspired the artist, with a view to writing a biography of him. The purchase of Plasschaert's collection, the individual contents of which are distinguished by his ex-libris, is what moved Brouwer to search for the same editions of the publications Van Gogh mentions in his letters. In most cases it was possible to find the editions the artist used, just as it was to buy those rare 19th-century periodicals which were important to him: The British Workman, Le Chat Noir, The Illustrated London News and L'Illustration. Only a few books and periodicals known to Vincent had to be photocopied elsewhere.
The identification of the literature Van Gogh quoted in his correspondence has already shed considerable light on the painter's work. A good example of this is the poetry of Thomas Hood, which inspired Vincent to make a drawing of a half-naked woman. The drawing itself, which he dubbed ‘The Great Lady,’ does not survive, but a sketch of it can be found in a letter to Theo from early April 1882 (fig. 12): ‘The little sketch enclosed is scrawled after a larger study which has a more melancholy expression. There is a poem by Thomas Hood, I think, telling of a rich lady who cannot sleep at night because when she went out to buy a dress during the day, she saw the poor seamstress - pale, consumptive, emaciated - sitting at work in a close room. And now she is conscience-stricken about her wealth, and starts up anxiously in the night. In short, it is the figure of a slender, pale woman, restless in the dark night.’55
Until now scholars have assumed Van Gogh was referring to Hood's poem The song of the shirt, but this is only true in part. To be sure, the poem talks about a poor seamstress, but the ‘great lady’ who cannot sleep does not figure in it. A study of The poetical works of Thomas Hood (n.d.), however, shows that Van Gogh mixed two poems: The lady's dream, about a woman who cannot sleep after a terrible nightmare, and the aforementioned Song of the shirt were conflated in Vincent's memory. Continued study of the recently acquired source material will doubtless lead to more such discoveries, further enhancing our understanding of Van Gogh's art.
Vincent van Gogh, sketch of ‘The Great Lady,’ enclosed with letter 214/185 of early April 1882, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)