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Haak, Bob

    Full Name: Haak, Bob

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1926

    Date Died: 2005

    Place Born: Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

    Place Died: Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands

    Subject Area(s): Dutch (culture or style) and painting (visual works)


    Rembrandt specialist; director Amsterdam Historical Museum. Haak was the son of Jurrian Haak and Henrietta van Eek. He attended the Amsterdam Montessori Lyceum between 1938 and 1944. In 1950 he married Annette van Heek. Between 1950 and 1954, he served as assistant to the art dealer D. A. Hoogendijk in Amsterdam. In 1954 Haak began his museum career as assistant in the department of paintings at the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum. In 1963, he obtained the position of chief curator at the Amsterdam Historical Museum, of which he was appointed director in 1975. In 1956 Haak was involved in the Rembrandt exhibition in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum. He then realized that the authenticity of a number of the displayed works was disputable, and that Rembrandt’s oeuvre was in need of revision. Several years later this conviction led to the creation of the Rembrandt Research Project (RRP). Launched in 1968, this project aimed at a comprehensive study of all of Rembrandt’s paintings. It was carried out in cooperation with J. G. van Gelder, J. A. Emmens, Josua Bruyn, Simon H. Levie, and Pieter J. J. van Thiel. In the same year his impressive monograph on Rembrandt appeared, Rembrandt, zijn leven, zijn werk, zijn tijd (Rembrandt; His Life, His Work, His Time) Another Rembrandt scholar, Horst Gerson, in his revision of the 1935 catalog by Abraham Bredius, published in 1969, independently proposed a drastic reduction of the master’s paintings. The approach of the Rembrandt team was even more drastic and led to further reductions. The findings of the first RRP volumes, published between 1982 and 1989, aroused serious debate and controversies in the art world. In 1993, Haak withdrew from the RRP, along with Josua Bruyn, Simon H. Levie, and Pieter J. J. van Thiel. They left the further organization of the project to their fellow team member Ernst van de Wetering, who advocated a different approach. In 1984, Haak published a broad study on seventeenth-century painting with The Golden Age: Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Acclaimed as the best art history book of the year, it won the 1985 Karel Van Mander Prize. In 1992, Haak received an honorary degree from the University of Amsterdam. With his Golden Age Haak provided a very readable overview of seventeenth-century Dutch painting, without limiting himself to the most well-known masters. He regarded his work as a follow up to the 1935-36 study by Wilhelm Martin, De Hollandsche schilderkunst in de zeventiende eeuw, which likewise paid attention to the broader art scene. For his iconological interpretations Haak relied on the research of the Utrecht professors J. A. Emmens and Eddy de Jongh. While he never obtained a university degree in art history, Haak considered the above mentioned art dealer Hoogendijk to have been his first teacher in the field of seventeenth-century Dutch painting.

    Selected Bibliography

    and van Schendel, A.F.E. Art Treasures of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. New York: Abrams, 1966; Rembrandt, zijn leven, zijn werk, zijn tijd. Amsterdam: Contact, 1968; Rembrandt: His Life, His Work, His Time. New-York: Abrams, 1969; Rembrandt Drawings. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1976; The Golden Age: Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. New York: Abrams, 1984; Bruyn, J., Haak, B., Levie, S. H. and van Thiel, P. J. J. A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings. 3 vols. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1982, 1986, and 1989.


    Bruyn, J., Haak, B., Levie, S. H. and van Thiel, P. J. J. Letter, The Rembrandt Research Project The Burlington Magazine 135 (1993): 279; Grasman, Edward. The Rembrandt Research Project: reculer pour mieux sauter Oud Holland 113 (1999): 153-160; Contemporary Authors Online. Gale, 2003; Schwartz, Gary. Bob Haak (1926-2005) has passed away The CODART List, News of the day (19 May 2005).


    "Haak, Bob." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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