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de Gruyter, Josiah Willem Jos

    Image Credit: Wikidata

    Full Name: de Gruyter, Josiah Willem Jos

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1899

    Date Died: 1979

    Place Born: Singapore, Singapore, Republic of Singapore

    Place Died: Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Singapore

    Career(s): art critics and curators

    Institution(s): Groninger Museum


    art critic; director of the Groninger Museum (1955-1963); chief curator of the Gemeentemuseum The Hague (1963-1965). Between age five and ten, de Gruyter lived in the Dutch East Indies. His father then served in the Koninklijke Bataafsche Petroleum Maatschappij. In 1909 he quit this position to become an independent writer and he moved with his family to Haarlem, in the Netherlands. During the next four years, the young de Gruyter continued his primary and secondary school education. He felt attracted to drawing, stimulated by his contacts with artists, including the painter and art writer Just Havelaar (1880-1930). At the outbreak of World War I, the family settled in England. In London, de Gruyter received further formal education from his father, while also attending the Beckenham School of Arts and Crafts and the Royal College of Art in London. He stayed in England after his parents’ return to The Netherlands. In 1922 he received his diploma of etching. A year later he joined his parents in Amersfoort. He renewed his friendship with Havelaar, then art critic for Het Vaderland, who inspired him to become an art writer. In 1926 he published an essay on Thijs Maris and Vincent van Gogh in De Nieuwe Gids, as well as booklets on Van Gogh, Rodin, and Käthe Kollwitz. In the same year he married the painter Margaritha Feuerstein (1893-1986). After a stay in Italy and France, the couple settled in The Netherlands. De Gruyter became art critic for the Utrechtsch Dagblad, as the successor of Abraham Marie Wilhelmus Jacobus Hammacher, and in 1930 he was appointed editor visual arts for Het Vaderland in The Hague. In addition, between 1930 and 1932, he served as the editor of Elsevier’s Geïllustreerd Maandschrift. In 1935 his major work appeared, a monograph on the essence and development of European Painting after 1850: Wezen en ontwikkeling der Europese Schilderkunst na 1850. After his divorce, he remarried Catharina Meijer in 1951. He was appointed director of the Groninger Museum in 1955 as the successor of Alphonsus Petrus Antonius Vorenkamp. Dedicated to modern and contemporary art, de Gruyter played an innovative role in the museum, in a fruitful interaction with the art history institute of the University of Groningen, headed by Henk Schulte Nordholt. He began building up the collection with a focus on the Groningen artists’ association De Ploeg (the plow), founded in 1918. Among the initiators of this group were the artists Johan Dijkstra (1896-1978) and Jan Wiegers (1893-1959). The latter introduced expressionism in Groningen in the 1920s. A number of the prints of the Groningen artist Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman (1882-1945) also became part of the collection. De Gruyter’s 1956 show on 35 year modern art in Groningen attracted much attention in the museum world. His approach was a great stimulus for the artistic climate in Groningen. In the course of eight years de Gruyter organized more than 80 exhibitions on Dutch modern art as well on a number of foreign artists, including Paula Modersohn Becker (1958) and Edvard Munch (1959). The need for more space became urgent, but the plans for a new museum were not realized during his directorship. In 1963 de Gruyter chose to leave the Groninger Museum to become chief curator of the Gemeentemuseum at The Hague. In 1964 he received a doctorate honoris causa from Groningen University. In the same year, a collection of his catalog introductions appeared: Beeld en interpretatie (Image and interpretation). In 1965, he retired from his position in The Hague. In 1968 he published a two volume monograph on the Hague School, De Haagse School. Reflecting on his life, he began writing his autobiography, Bewust leven, which was not ready for publication when he died in 1979. In 2004, it posthumously appeared under the title, Zelfportret als zeepaardje: Memoires van W. Jos de Gruyter. In 2004/5 the Groninger Museum celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the 1955 appointment of its former director with an exhibition on his innovative acquisition policy, Keerpunt: keuze uit het aankoopbeleid van W. Jos de Gruyter 1955-1963.

    Selected Bibliography

    [list of important writings:] Dubois, Pierre H. Josiah Willem (Jos) de Gruyter. Singapore 28 augustus 1899 – Amsterdam 30 juli 1979. Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde (1981), pp. 152-153; Wezen en ontwikkeling der Europese Schilderkunst na 1850. Amsterdam: H. J. Paris, 1935; A New Approach to Maya Hieroglyphs. Amsterdam: H. J. Paris, 1946; Het vrouwsportret in de Nederlandsche en Vlaamsche schilderkunst. Amsterdam: Van Holkema & Warendorf, 1947; Beeld en interpretatie. The Hague: Daamen, 1964; De Haagse School. 2 vols. Rotterdam: Lemniscaat, 1968-1969; Twentieth Century Dutch Graphic Art. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1969.


    Swart, Arth. Eredoctor Willem Josiah de Gruyter. Een leven, boordevol van kunst Vrij Nederland (19 September 1964); Colenbrander, A. et al. Nalatenschap: kunst en cultuur in de ogen van W. Jos. De Gruyter (1899-1979). Groningen: Instituut voor Kunst en Architectuurgeschiedenis, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 1995; Van Veen, H. Th. Naar een artistiek mecenaat. Ontwikkeling van de kunstzin aan de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. in Boom, Eva and Ten Bruggencate, Carolien, eds. Vruchten der Verbeelding: vier eeuwen kunst en kunstzin aan de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen/Fruits of Imagination Four Centuries of Art and Artistic Sense at the University of Groningen. Groningen: Dienst Interne Externe Betrekkingen der Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 1999, pp. 7-21; Ebbink, Hans. Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland 5. The Hague: Instituut voor Nederlandse geschiedenis, 2001, pp. 152-154; De Gruyter, Josiah, and Ebbink, Hans et al. Zelfportret als zeepaardje. Memoires van W. Jos de Gruyter. Bussum: Thoth, 2004; [obituary:] Dubois, Pierre H. Josiah Willem (Jos) de Gruyter. Singapore 28 augustus 1899 – Amsterdam 30 juli 1979. Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde (1981), pp. 144-153.

    Contributors: Monique Daniels


    Monique Daniels. "de Gruyter, Josiah Willem Jos." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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