Brom, Gerard Bartel

Full Name
Brom, Gerard Bartel
Date Born
Date Died
Home Country
Subject Area

Professor of aesthetics and art history (1923-1946) at Nijmegen University. Brom was named after his father, Gerard Bartholomeus Brom, a blacksmith of liturgical objects, who had died before Brom jr. was born. His elder brother, Jan Hendrik, took over his father's firm. Brom, who was raised in a Catholic family, attended the Gymnasium of the Bisschoppelijk College in Roermond. After graduation he began medical studies in 1899 at Utrecht University, but a year later switched to Dutch language and literature. Following his graduation in 1905, he obtained his doctoral degree in 1907 with a dissertation on the Dutch writer and poet Joost van den Vondel, Vondels bekering (Vondel's Conversion). In the same year he married Willemina Jacoba Struik. Until 1920 Brom occupied several teaching positions in high schools in the Netherlands, in Maastricht, Haarlem, and, after a two year stay in Italy, in Apeldoorn and Nijmegen, respectively. In 1916 he was one of the founders of De Beiaard, a Roman Catholic periodical, which Brom used to advocate for the emancipation of the Roman Catholics in the Netherlands. His moralistic views on the education of youth isolated him from his students and even aroused controversies. Convinced of the need for a Catholic university, Brom took an active part in the creation of the Catholic University in Nijmegen (1923), at which he soon was appointed extraordinarius professor of aesthetics and art history. In 1926 he obtained a full professorship. Brom first interest was literature, but his hope to become a professor in that field was not fulfilled until 1946. His writings on art history belie a predilection for cultural history (including literature) based upon stylistic periods and viewed through Catholicism. In 1926 he published a two-volume book, Romantiek en Katholicisme in Nederland, the first part of which was devoted to art. The following year, Hollandse schilders en schrijvers in de vorige eeuw (Dutch Painters and Writers in the Past Century) appeared. In 1933 he published a volume on the revival of sacred art in the Catholic Netherlands, Herleving van de kerkelijke kunst in katholiek Nederland. In addition to his writings on art he published on subjects mostly in relation with Roman Catholicism. In 1940 he was elected member of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen. Brom's broad approach attracted students from different faculties. His own students were overwhelmed by Brom's vast knowledge; however, he was successful in encouraging many of them to complete their studies with a dissertation. In 1946, after 23 years, Brom eventually gave up his position as art history professor to be appointed professor of Dutch and general literature at the same university. Frits van der Meer succeeded Brom as extraordinarius professor of Early Christian and Mediaeval art. In 1947 Brom's former student J. J. Tikkanen obtained the position of extraordinarius professor of Aesthetics and the art history of the New Era. In 1952, Brom retired and moved with his wife to Wychen. Brom's art history was a manifestation of cultural history, interpreted through a heavy lens of Rome Catholic doctrine. For Brom, spiritual meaning and iconography dominated interpretation, rather than aspects of style. His works today are seldom consulted.

Rogier, L. J. Herdenking van Gerard Brom. Jaarboek der Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, 1959-1960, p. 345; Smits, K. Gerard Brom. in Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde te leiden 1960-1961. Leiden, 1961, pp. 42-49; Van Schaik, A. H. M. in Nederlands Biografisch Woordenboek 2, Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1985, pp. 68-71; Brom, G. Een katholiek leven: autobiografische aantekeningen, bezorgd door Pail Luykx en Jan Roes. Baarn: Arbor, 1987; Kroon, Theo J. Gerard Brom (literator en historicus). s.l., s.n. [1989?]; Kusters, Wouter. Gerard Brom. in Brabers, Jan and others, eds, Nijmeegse Gezichten. Vijfenzeventig Jaar Katholieke Universiteit. Nijmegen: Uitgeverij KU Nijmegen, 1998, pp. 30-39, 262.