Arts » Arts Stories & Interviews

Reclaimed:Paintings from the Jacques Goudstikker Collection



1897 Jacques Goudstikker is born in Amsterdam, into the third generation of a Jewish family of prosperous, influential art dealers.

1914-1918(approximately) Jacques studies at the Commercial School in Amsterdam, as well as with noted art historian Wilhelm Martin at Utrecht.

1919 Jacques joins his father’s fashionable gallery on the corner of Kalverstraat and Wijde Kapelsteeg. He sets about establishing a less-parochial, more international outlook for the gallery, printing exhibition catalogs in French rather than Dutch, and exhibiting Italian Renaissance paintings.

1920-1925 Post World War I, Amsterdam emerges as a burgeoning commercial and cultural center. Goudstikker adds Flemish, French, German, and Italian artworks to his offerings, broadening the Dutch outlook, while introducing British, German, and American collectors to Dutch Golden Age art.

1927 Goudstikker opens a larger, grander gallery space at at Herengracht 458.

1930-1936 Despite a worldwide Great Depression that put the brakes on large-scale art acquisition by many wealthy individuals and institutions, Goudstikker mounts a successful exhibition of Rubens, a group show featuring Mondrian, Van Gogh, and Van Dongen, and a collection of Italian paintings which he personally shows to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.

1937 Goudstikker, reportedly a great raconteur, host, and inveterate partier, hosts a legendary charity fundraiser gala, called “Vienna on the Vecht.” One of the performers at the elaborate event is singer Desiree von Halban Kurz, daughter of Selma Kurz, a famed coloratura soprano. Bachelor Goudstikker is reportedly smitten, and the two are soon married.

1939 Eduard (“Edo”), Jacques and Desi’s son is born. The situation in Western Europe grows increasingly dire for the Jewish community. Jacques has already begun sending funds and artworks overseas, primarily to the U.S. He keeps records of his holdings in a now-famous black notebook.

1940 While escaping by sea from Holland to the U.K. with Desi and Edo in tow, Jacques strolls on the ship’s deck in the dark and falls through an open hatch into the ship’s hold, breaking his neck. His body is found the next morning, and his distraught widow takes possession of the black notebook. Within just a few weeks, Hitler’s second-in-command, Nazi Reichsmarschall Herman Göring, takes roughly 800 of Goudstikker’s estimated 1,400 artworks back to Germany.

1940-1945 Goudstikker’s gallery is open throughout the war, operated by Göring crony Alois Miedl, despite Desi’s legal ownership.

1945-1996After the war, much of Goudstikker’s collection is located in Germany by Allied forces, and is returned to the Dutch government. Despite having Jacques’s black notebook delineating the ownership of the works, the Goudstikker family is not granted possession. In 1996, both Desi and Edo die without restitution.

1998 Dutch investigative journalist Pieter den Hollander writes an article (eventually expanded into a book) discussing the fate of the Goudstikkers’ collection, which many believe prompted the Dutch government to work towards establishing the proper provenance of the art.

2006 Finally, after 66 years, a portion of Goudstikker’s collection is restored to his rightful heir, Edo’s widow Marei von Saher.

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