Jacques Goudstikker

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Jacques Goudstikker (1897-May 16, 1940[1]) was a Jewish Dutch art dealer who fled Holland when it was invaded by Nazis during World War II, leaving an extensive and significant art collection including over 30 "Old Masters" which was looted by the Nazis. "Between the two World Wars, Jacques Goudstikker was probably the most important Netherlandish dealer of Old Master paintings", according to Peter C. Sutton, executive director and CEO of the Bruce Museum of Arts and Science. [2] The Dutch government restored the paintings to the Goudstikker family in 2006, and they were sold at auction in 2007 for almost $10 million. [3]


Goudstikker was the son of an art dealer, Eduard Goudstikker. He studied at the Commercial School in Amsterdam, and more intensely with Wilhelm Martin and William Vogelsang at Leiden and Utrecht. In 1919 he joined his father's Amsterdam gallery, restructured it as a public limited liability company with himself as the director and major shareholder, and introduced a notably more international style; publishing catalogs in French rather than Dutch, and showing for the first time Italian Renaissance paintings, including The Madonna and Child by Francesco Squarcione. This was revolutionary in Holland of the time, where in 1906, Dr. Adriaan Pit , the director of the Rijksmuseum, had stated "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." [4]

Following World War I, Amsterdam once again became a center of international commerce, and Goudstikker flourished, along with fellow art dealers, Jelle Taeke de Boer, and Henri Douwes; in 1927 he moved to a larger gallery. Goudstikker rose above his contemporaries, however in presenting works from the Dutch Golden Age alongside panels by 14th century, 15th century and 16th century Dutch, Flemish, German and Italian painters, mixing paintings, sculptures, carpets, and other works of art together, in the sophisticated style of Wilhelm von Bode of Berlin, much emulated in London, Paris, and New York. Goudstikker's taste extended to the design of his catalogs, which were minor works of art in themselves. [4]

Goudstikker maintained close ties with art historians and collectors. In the introduction to his 1928 catalog, he wrote "[W]e are happy as a logical development in our Italian department in having obtained the assistance of our compatriot Doctor Raimond van Marle", author of the influential The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. His clients, including J. W. Edwin vom Rath, Detlen Van Hadeln, J. H. van Heek, Ernst Proehl, Daniel G. van Beuningen, Heinrich Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon and Otto Lanz, also partook in this mix of connoisseurship and scholarship. [4]

He staged an exhibit of Dutch and Flemish paintings, including five van Goghs, two van Dongens, and a Mondrian, together with a group of 17th century works including a magnificent wooded landscape by Philips Koninck, at the Anderson Gallery in New York in 1923, organized through the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce; the Committee of Patrons included such society notables as Mrs. T. J. Oakley Rhinelander and Mrs. Cortland S. Van Rensselaer. [4]

The stock market crash and Great Depression took their toll on the connoisseur art trade, as on other luxury businesses. Goudstikker was forced to economize on production of his catalogs, but he still managed to organize a Rubens exhibition in 1933, as well as what may have been his ultimate achievement, participating in the exhibition of Italian Paintings in Dutch Collections at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1934, where he personally showed Queen Wilhelmina the exhibits. [4]

While escaping the Nazis in May, 1940, Goudstikker fell in the hold of the SS Bodegraven, fatally breaking his neck. [5]

Goudstikker's artistic taste

Goudstikker's main stock in trade were paintings by the Old Masters; he did not express much interest in Italian Baroque art or art of the 18th century. While his specialty was Dutch 17th-century painting, his specific interest was the more stylized painters such as Cranach, Marco Zoppo, Squarcione and Pesellino, and he was particularly attracted to the unusual. Artists in his collection included Jan Steen, Adriaen van Ostade, Isaac van Ostade, and tonal landscape painters, such as Jan van Goyen and Salomon van Ruysdael. He kept several notable paintings by Jan van der Heyden at Nijenrode Castle, one of his two country homes where he also entertained clients and exhibited great art. Although he did carry some still lifes, such as the Jan van Huysum in the National Gallery, his major interest was in figure painters, whether portraitists such as Jan Antonisz van Ravesteyn or Johannes Cornelisz Verspronck, or subject painters like Bol, Aert de Gelder, or Jan Steen. [4],[2]

Other notable paintings owned by Goudstikker include The entrance to a harbor by Simon de Vlieger, Extensive landscape with trees and a cottage by Philips Koninck, the Ferry Boat with cattle on the River Vecht near Nijenrode by Salomon van Ruysdael, the Saint Lucy by Jacopo del Casentino, The Judgment of Paris by François Boucher, The Fritole Seller by Pietro Longhi, the Madonna and Child by Pacchiarotti, the Christ Carrying the Cross by Hieronymous Bosch which now resides in the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, and Young Girl with a Flute by Vermeer, which was eventually purchased by Joseph Widener to donate to the National Gallery in Washington, DC in 1942. Other American museum purchases from Goudstikker include a large altarpiece by Luca Signorelli depicting The Assumption of the Virgin with Saints Michael and Benedict, by the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 1929, and Pesellino's King David before the Ark of the Covenant by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas in 1932. [4],[2]

Fate of Goudstikker's collection

When Goudstikker died in 1940, six days after the death of his executor, his enormous collection (1,113 numbered paintings and an unknown quantity of unnumbered paintings [1]) was left behind to be looted and became the largest claim for restitution of Nazi-looted art.[5]

In a forced sale typical of such thefts, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring obtained the entire collection over the objections of Goudstikker's widow; on June 3, 1940, Goudstikker's employee Arie ten Broek was named director of the company; then, on July 13, ten Broek and another of Goudstikker's employees, Jan Dik were paid 180 thousand guilders each to sell all paintings and works of art to Göring for two million guilders, a fraction of their value, and the art gallery to Goering's henchman, German banker Alois Miedl, for 550 thousand guilders. Through a series of sham transactions later found illegal, Miedl acquired title to the J. Goudstikker trade name, what little art remained in the collection, and Goudstikker's real estate (Nijenrode castle in Breukelen, the Herengracht 458 building in Amsterdam, and the country estate Oostermeer in Oudekerk aan de Amstel). With the asset of Goudstikker's internationally renowned trade name, Miedl went on to make a fortune marketing art internationally, particularly to Nazi Germany.[5], [1]

Following World War II, the Allied forces recovered these treasures from Germany and gave them to the Dutch government as part of 'amicable restitution of rights', with the intention of returning them to their rightful owners; however, instead of returning them to Goudstikker's wife Desi, who sought their recovery from 1946 to 1952, they were retained as part of the Netherlands' National Collection. Between 1996 and 1998, Dutch investigative journalist Pieter den Hollander attracted international attention with his expose of how the post-war restitution of stolen art often ignored the rights of the legal owners, eventually documenting it in his book De zaak Goudstikker (The Goudstikker Case), published by Meulenhoff in 1998. At that time, Goudstikker's heirs sued for possession of these works, but their claim was rejected by the State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science. Official investigations, however, confirmed the mishandling of postwar restitutions, and as a result, the Dutch government created the Restitutions Committee to review claims to art treasures in the government's possession. On the recommendations of the Herkomst Gezocht (Origins Unknown) Committee chaired by Prof. dr. R.E.O. Ekkart, after eight years of legal battles, in 2006 the Dutch government restored 202 paintings to Goudstikker's sole remaining heir, his daughter in law Marei von Saher, Goudstikker's wife Desi and only son Edo both having died in 1996; many of them were sold at auction in 2007 for almost $10 million. [3], [5]