Van Gelder, H. E.

Full Name: 
Van Gelder, H. E.
Other Names: 
Hendrik Enno Van Gelder
Date Born: 
Date Died: 
Place Born: 
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Place Died: 
The Hague, Netherlands
Home Country: 

Archivist and Museum Director. Van Gelder attended the Gymnasium at Amsterdam. Between 1895 and 1899, he studied Law and Political Science at the University of Amsterdam, obtaining his doctorate in 1899. As a young socialist he admired William Morris (1834-1896) whose arts-and-crafts movement fought the tide of mass production. Between 1900 and 1906 van Gelder worked as archivist in Alkmaar, and the same position between 1906 and 1923 in The Hague, where he reorganized the municipal archives. In 1912 he became the director of the Municipal Museum of The Hague where he reorganized and modernized the installations, reducing the number of objects in order to highlight the objects with an esthetical value. Van Gelder joined the association concerned with the condition of museums and their reform, Nederlandse Oudheidkundige Bond, acting as its secretary between 1908 and 1913. In 1918 the association published the report Over hervorming en beheer onzer musea (On the Reform and Management of Our Museums). This discussion continued in the Rapport der Rijkscommissie van advies inzake reorganisatie van het museumwezen hier te lande (Report of the State Advisory Commission on the Reorganization of Museum Affairs in this Country), which appeared in 1921. Van Gelder was also a member of this Commission, along with the art historian F. Schmidt-Degener and twenty other specialists. In The Hague Van Gelder also headed, from 1918 onwards, the new Municipal Service for Arts and Sciences. Inspired by Benjamin Ives Gilman's book Museum Ideals of Purpose and Method (1918, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston), van Gelder launched an initiative to build a new cultural center and museum in the Hague in 1919. He selected the eminent Dutch architect H.P. Berlage (1856-1934) who designed it in collaboration with van Gelder. Though financial constraints forced Berlage to submit a more modest plan, the new museum was completed between 1931 and 1935. Van Gelder used the new museum to implement his views of museology, based on the Advisory Commission's reorganization recommendations. Chief among them was the heightened aesthetic education of the visitors. Van Gelder held that the museum should be a place where the public--including young people--could behold beauty and develop aesthetic sensibilities. Borrowing the progressive policies of Hamburg Kunsthalle director Alfred Lichtwark, Van Gelder appointed museum guides (docents) to educate high school students in the museum's art. In 1950, he became the chair of a commission for the promotion of museum visits by young people and the broader public. Besides his work as a museum director, van Gelder did historical and art historical research. Between 1913 and 1960 he was a member of the editorial board of Oud Holland, in which periodical he regularly published, as well as in the Bulletin van de Nederlandse Oudheidkundige Bond and Jaarboek Die Haghe. His breadth of research interests was great, publishing particularly in the areas of painting and crafts, including old silver, glassware and pottery. He wrote a monograph on Rembrandt that appeared in six installments in the Palet series, later appearing as a book in 1956. Van Gelder also collaborated on surveys on Netherlandish art with other authors. He was the editor of Kunstgeschiedenis der Nederlanden, first published in 1936, followed by several revised editions. The first edition of his Guide to Dutch Art appeared in 1952, and the Dutch version was published in 1955: Gids voor Beeldende Kunst en Bouwkunst. Van Gelder's realization of the Municipal Museum of The Hague is considered as his most important contribution to art history and to the development of museum policy. His son also became an art historian, J. G. van Gelder.

Selected Bibliography: 
and Schmidt-Degener, F. Quarante chefs-d'oeuvre de Jan Steen. Paris: G. Crès, [1929]; and Berlage, H.P. Le nouveau Museé de la Haye Mouseion 13-14 (1931): 104-109; Le nouveau museé municipal de la Haye Mouseion 33-34 (1936): 145-160; Hoe kunnen onze musea beter dienstbaar worden gemaakt aan de opvoeding van het publiek? (Rede op de Museumdag, 27 oktober 1951) Bulletin van de Nederlandse Oudheidkundige Bond (1951): kol. 133-148; Kunstgeschiedenis der Nederlanden; samenvattende kunstgeschiedenis van Nederland en Vlaanderen van begin tot heden Utrecht: W. de Haan, 1936; and Duverger, Jozef Kunstgeschiedenis der Nederlanden van de Middeleeuwen tot onze tijd. Utrecht: W. de Haan, 1954-56; and Stubbe, Achilles Kunstgeschiedenis der Nederlanden, VI. Zeventiende-eeuwse schilderkunst, Zeist-Antwerpen: W. de Haan - Standaard Boekhandel, 1964. For a complete list, see: Feestbundel van Oud-Holland: 4-34, mentioned above; Oud Holland 70 (1955) appendix: 1-8; Alkmaarse opstellen [Alkmaar, 1961].
Albarda, J.W. . van Gelder vijf en zeventig jaar Het Vrije Volk, 14-2-1951; Mededelingen Gemeentemuseum Den Haag 11, 1 (1956); Van Eeghen, Chr. P. H.E. van Gelder Economische-Historisch Jaarboek 28 (1958-1960): 292-297; Byvanck, A.W. In Memoriam Dr. H.E. van Gelder. 13 februari 1876 - 24 juni 1960 Nieuws-Bulletin Koninklijke Nederlandse Oudheidkundige Bond 13 (1960): kol. 157-164; Mol, W. Die Haghe (1960): XI-XVI; Van Regteren Altena, J.Q. In Memoriam Dr. H.E. van Gelder Oud Holland 75 (1960): 2-4; Wijsenbeek, L.J.F. Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde te Leiden 1963-1964. Levensberichten: 42-46; Singelenberg, P. Het Haags Gemeentemuseum Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 25 (1974): 1-89 [with English summary]; Meijers, Debora, J. De democratisering van schoonheid. Plannen voor museumvernieuwingen in Nederland 1918-1921 Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 28 (1977): 55-104 [with English summary]; De Jong, A.A.M. in Charité J. (ed.) Biografisch woordenboek van Nederland 1. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1979: 193-194; Kultermann, Udo, The History of Art History. New York: Abaris, 1993, p. 194. Feestbundel van Oud-Holland Aangeboden aan Dr. H.E. van Gelder (Amsterdam, 1946)
Monique Daniels