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Delen, A. J. J.

    Full Name: Delen, A. J. J.

    Other Names:

    • A. J. J. Delen

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 10 March 1883

    Date Died: 17 June 1960

    Place Born: Louvain, Vlaams-Brabant, Flanders, Belgium

    Place Died: Antwerp, Flanders, Belgium

    Home Country/ies: Belgium

    Career(s): authors, curators, and educators


    Curator; professor of art history; novelist. Delen attended the Koninklijk Atheneum (high school) in Antwerp, where he befriended Alfons de Ridder (1882-1960), later known as the Flemish writer Willem Elsschot. Delen continued his education in economics at the Antwerp Hoger Handelsinstituut, and in art history at the Hoger Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis en Oudheidkunde in Brussels. He also attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. He was interested in the contemporary art scene and visited the studios of the painters Walter Vaes (1882-1958) and Richard Baseleer (1867-1951). Delen was in the editorial board of several local periodicals, including Alvoorder, in which he published some of his poems, and Onze Kunst. He also contributed to Dutch periodicals for art and literature that were based in The Netherlands, such as Jong Holland, Elseviers geïllustreerd Maandschrift, and De Nieuwe Gids. As a journalist he was among the founders of the Flemish socialist daily newspaper, De Volksgazet. He earned his living as an employee of the city of Antwerp. At the outbreak of the First World War, Delen fled with his wife, Justine Cooreman, and his children to The Hague. He, however, soon returned to Antwerp, leaving his family in The Netherlands. In 1915 (one other source says 1920) Delen was appointed adjunct curator at the Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp. This museum is housed in the former residence and workshop of Christophe Plantin, the founder of the famous printing and publishing firm, the Officina Plantiniana (1555). In the last year of the war, in 1918, Delen was put in jail for several months by the German occupiers as an activist. In 1920 Delen obtained an additional appointment as professor of art history at the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts, a position that he held until 1948. In 1922 he published a study on the life and work of his friend, the painter and sculptor Rik Wouters (1882-1916), who had died during the war. Delen’s most important work deals with the history of engraving and woodcut in the Low Countries, Histoire de la gravure dans les anciens Pays-Bas et dans les provinces belges, des origines jusqu’à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, of which three volumes appeared, in 1924, 1934, and 1935 respectively, covering the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Despite the title, the period from 1600 up to 1800 was not dealt with. In 1936 Maurits Sabbe (1873-1938), then curator of the Museum Plantin-Moretus, established a separate municipal print room. Delen became its first curator, a position that he held until 1945. The nucleus of the collection consisted of graphic art gathered by Maximilian Rooses, former curator of the Plantin-Moretus Museum. In 1938 Delen’s catalog of ancient Dutch and Flemish drawings kept in the print room appeared, Catalogue des dessins anciens, écoles flamande et hollandaise. In 1942 he wrote a monograph on Walter Vaes. After the Second World War, Delen was appointed chief curator at the Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts. His descriptive catalog of the Old Masters in this museum was first published in 1948. Other publications reveal his vivid interest in modern painting and graphic arts. Delen retired in 1948. He is better known as an art historian than as a novelist.

    Selected Bibliography

    De ontwikkelingsgang der schilderkunst te Antwerpen. Quinten Metsijs, Peter Bruegel, Pieter Pauwel Rubens, Hendrik de Braekeleer.Antwerp: L. Opdebeek, 1921; Rik Wouters, zijn werk – zijn leven – zijn einde. Antwerp: Opdebeek, 1922; Metsys. Brussels: Kryn, 1926; Histoire de la gravure dans les anciens Pays-Bas et dans les provinces belges, des origines jusqu’à la fin du XVIIIe siècle. 1. Des origines à 1500. Paris: G. van Oest, 1924, 2. Le XVIe siècle. Les graveurs-illustrateurs. Paris: Les Èditions d’Art et d’Histoire, 1934, Les graveurs d’estampes. Paris: Les Èditions d’Art et d’Histoire, 1935. (Reprinted as Histoire de la gravure dans les anciens Pays-Bas et dans les provinces belges, des origines jusqu’à la fin du XVIe siècle. Paris: F. De Nobele, 1969); L’illustration du livre en Belgique. Brussels: Éditions du Musée du livre, 1930; Catalogue des dessins anciens, écoles flamande et hollandaise. Antwerp: Stedelijk Prentenkabinet, 1938; Het huis van P. P. Rubens: de invloed van Rubens op de Vlaamsche barokarchitectuur. Diest: Pro Arte, 1940; Walter Vaes. Antwerp: Standaard-Boekhandel, 1942; Christophe Plantin, imprimeur de l’humanisme. Brussels: Office de publicité, 1944; Beschrijvende catalogus: Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten. 1. Oude meesters. Antwerp: Excelsior, 1948; Flemish Master Drawings of the Seventeenth Century. London: Allen and Unwin, 1950; Modern Belgian Etchers and Copper Engravers. New York: Belgian Govt. Information Center, 1951; De schilders der Schelde. Antwerp: Standaard-Boekhandel, 1956; De grafische kunsten door de eeuwen heen. Antwerp: Standaard-Boekhandel, 1956.


    Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986 p. 505; De Seyn, Eug. Dictionnaire biographique des Sciences, des Lettres et des Arts en Belgique. 1. Brussels: Éditions L’Avenir, 1935, p. 285-286; Le Livre bleu. Recueil biographique. Brussels: Maison Ferd. Larcier S.A., 1950, pp. 144-145; Who’s who in Belgium, including the Belgian Congo. Brussels: Intercontinental Book & Pub. Co., 1957-1958, p. 170; Voet, Leon. The Golden Compasses. A History and Evaluation of the Printing and Publishing Activities of the Officina Plantiniana at Antwerp. 1, Christophe Plantin and the Moretuses: their Lives and their World. Amsterdam: Vangendt & Co, 1969, p. 410; Van den Bossche, Stefan. “De flamboyante verschijning van Ary Delen (1883-1960)” Nieuw Letterkundig Magazijn. Mededelingenblad uitgegeven door de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde, gevestigd te Leiden 22 (July, 2004): 2-9; [obituary:] Craeybeckx, L.”In memoriam Ary Delen” Antwerpen 6 (1960): 104-105.

    Contributors: Monique Daniels


    Monique Daniels. "Delen, A. J. J.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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