Alberdingk Thijm, J. A.

Full Name: 
Alberdingk Thijm, J. A.
Other Names: 
Joseph A. Alberdingk Thijm
Year Born: 
1820
Year Died: 
1889
Place Born: 
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Place Died: 
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Home Country: 
Netherlands
Overview: 
Merchant; art critic, poet; professor at the Amsterdam Rijksacademie, 1876-1889; central figure in the emancipation process of the Roman Catholics of the Netherlands. Alberdingk Thijm received no higher education. He initially went into business. In 1842 he began writing art criticism for De Spectator. He married Wilhelmina Anna Sophia Kerst in 1846. In 1852 he founded the Volks-almanak voor Nederlandse katholieken (The People's Almanac for Dutch Catholics), and in 1855 the Catholic periodical Dietsche Warande. Thijm's writings reveal his interest in specific Catholic aspects of national history, literature, and esthetics. In his essay on mediaeval church architecture, "De Heilige Linie", first published in Dietsche Warande, he explained that the Gothic style in particular visualized essential values of Christianity. As the promoter of the revival of this style he inspired the Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers (1827-1921), who designed many neo-gothic Catholic churches all over the country. The latter also designed the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum between 1876 and 1885, in close collaboration with Thijm. The project was supervised by the head of the Department of Arts and Sciences of the Ministry of Interior, the influential authority Victor de Stuers (1843-1916), who also was a Catholic. The dominant Gothic character of this national landmark clearly represented Catholic values, which aroused a controversy. In 1876 Thijm published Portretten van Joost van den Vondel. This famous Dutch poet, who converted to Catholicism in 1641, became one of Thijm's icons of the national past. Also in 1876 Thijm obtained the position of professor of art history at the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. In a three-year period he taught the complete history of European art. He paid special attention, however, to what he saw as the higher esthetical values of Christian art before the Reformation, a view that often aroused protests among his students. Thijm served the academy until his death. He was succeeded by Jan Six (q.v.) in 1890. Thijm's youngest son Karel Joan Lodewijk, generally known as Lodewijk van Deyssel, wrote a biography of his father in 1893 under the pseudonym A. J. His sister Catharina used her father's letters as the main source of a biographical sketch, which appeared in 1896. Thijm is generally known as the promoter of the Catholic revival in the Netherlands. His position as general art history professor, however, was rather exceptional in the Netherlands. At the same time, his colleague at the Municipal University of Amsterdam, Allard Pierson (q.v.), mainly taught Greek and Roman art history. Jan Six succeeded both Thijm and Pierson in 1890 and 1896 respectively. In 1907 the position of Art History was officially established at the State Universities of Utrecht and Leiden.
Selected Bibliography: 
Over de kompozitie in de kunst: eene aanwijzing der aesthetische verhoudingen in de architectuur, de muziek, de poëzie, de schilder-, beeldhouw-, en gebarenkunst. Amsterdam: C. L. van Langenhuysen, 1857; De Heilige Linie. Proeve over de oostwaardsche richting van kerk en autaar als hoofdbeginsel der kerkelijke bouwkunst. Amsterdam: C. L. van Langenhuysen, 1858; Geen kerkelijke bouwkunst zonder oriëntatie: een woord tot allen die belang stellen in onze hedendaagschen kerkbouw. Amsterdam: C. L. van Langenhuysen, 1859; Portretten van Joost van den Vondel. Eene laatste aflevering tot het werk van Mr. Jac. Van Lennep. Amsterdam: C. L. van Langenhuysen, 1876; Openingsrede bij de aanvaarding van het hoogleeraarsambt aan de Rijks-Akademie van Beeldende Kunsten, den 4e december, 1876. Amsterdam: C. L. van Langenhuysen, 1876; Gerard Lairesse. Amsterdam: Loman, 1879; De beeldhouwer Louis Royer, 1880; Over nieuwere beeldhouwkunst, vooral in Nederland. Rotterdam: Nijgh & van Ditmar, 1886.
Sources: 
Van Deyssel, Lodewijk. J. A. Alberdingk Thijm. Amsterdam: Loman & Funke, 1893; Alberdingk Thijm, Catharina. J. A. Alberdingk Thijm.in zijn brieven geschetst als Christen Mensch Kunstenaar. Amsterdam: C. L. van Langenhuysen, 1896; Hoogenboom, Annemieke. "De introductie van kunstgeschiedenis aan de Nederlandse universiteiten: de voorgeschiedenis van de leerstoel van Willem Vogelsang." in Bevers, Ton, et al. De Kunstwereld. Produktie, distributie en receptie in de wereld van kunst en cultuur. Hilversum: Verloren, 1993, pp. 85-87; Tibbe, Lieske. "Alberdingk Thijm en de beeldende kunsten. Zijn hoogleraarschp aan de Rijksacademie 1876-1889" in Geurts, P. A. M. et al., eds. J. A. Alberdingk Thijm 1820-1889. Erflater van de negentiende eeuw: een bundel opstellen. Baarn: Arbor, 1992, pp. 157-174; Van Hellenberg Hubar, Bernadette C. M. Arbeid en bezieling: de esthetica van P. J. H. Cuypers, J. A. Alberdingk Thijm en V. E. L. de Stuers, en de voorgevel van het Rijksmuseum. Nijmegen: University Press, 1997.
Contributor: 
Monique Daniels