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Röell, David Cornelis, jonkheer

    Full Name: Röell, David Cornelis, jonkheer

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1894

    Date Died: 1961

    Place Born: Utrecht, Belgium

    Place Died: Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands

    Subject Area(s): Dutch (culture or style), Modern (style or period), and museums (institutions)

    Career(s): directors (administrators) and museum directors

    Institution(s): Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam


    Director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam between 1936 and 1945, and director-in-chief of the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, 1945-1959. Röell attended the Gymnasium in Leiden and The Hague. Between 1913 and 1919, he studied law and art history at Utrecht University. In 1919, he went to Paris, where he continued his art history study at the Sorbonne and the École du Louvre. However, he did not complete his dissertation, when F. Schmidt-Degener, the new director of the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, in 1922 offered him a position as assistant at the department of paintings. Three years later, Röell was appointed curator of the department. In this position, he created the 1934 catalog of all the paintings in the Rijksmuseum, one of his rare individual publications. In 1936, he left the Rijksmuseum to become the director of the municipal museums of Amsterdam, including the Stedelijk Museum, devoted to art of the nineteenth and twentieth century, and the Amsterdams Historisch Museum. Assisted by the curator, Willem Jacob Henri Berend Sandberg (1897-1984), and in collaboration with the architect F.A. Eschauzier (1889-1957), he reorganized and modernized the Stedelijk Museum, and prepared various exhibitions on modern art. After the war, he returned to the Rijksmuseum, where he obtained the position of director-in-chief, as the successor of Schmidt-Degener, who had died in 1941. Between 1946 and 1950, he combined this position with the directorship of the department of paintings. Röell’s most important task for the coming years was the rearrangement and the renovation of the Rijksmuseum, which had been dismantled and partly damaged during the war. By 1952, the whole museum was reopened. In collaboration with Eschauzier, the interiors of the galleries had received a modern outfitting. Against a neutral background, the works of art were given full attention. The mixed display, introduced in the 1920s by Schmidt- Degener, was no longer in favor. This first renovation was followed by other rebuilding projects. At the same time, Röell aimed to attract the public with appealing exhibitions. From 1945 until 1959, 21 shows were held in the Rijksmuseum. The Rembrandt exhibition in 1956 was very successful, with more than 450,000 visitors. At the 1958 exhibition, Middeleeuwse kunst der Noordelijke Nederlanden (Medieval Art in the Northern Netherlands), loans from all over the world were on display. In 1958, the Faculty of Arts of the University of Amsterdam awarded Röell a doctorate honoris causa. Although not a very productive writer, Röell was elected a member of the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde te Leiden. After a successful career in the museum world, he retired in 1959. He was still active and involved in many activities when he suddenly died, in 1961, at the age of 67. By that time, the rebuilding of the department of sculpture and applied arts in the western inner court of the museum was still in progress. This part of the renovation was realized in 1962, under his successor, Arthur F. É. Van Schendel.

    Selected Bibliography

    “Geschiedkundig overzicht der verzamelingen…” in Catalogus der schilderijen, miniaturen, pastels, omlijste teekeningen, enz. in het Rijksmuseum te Amsterdam. Amsterdam, 1934, pp. xix-xxxiv.


    Van Schendel, A. “Bij het afscheid van de hoofddirecteur Röell.” Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum. 7 (1959): 51-52; Staring, A. [obituary] “D.C. Röell.” The Burlington Magazine. 104 (1962): 162-163; Van Lennep, F. “David Cornelis Röell.” in Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde te Leiden 1962-1963, pp. 155-162; Pieter J.J. van Thiel a.o. (eds.) All the Paintings of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam: a completely illustrated catalogue, by the department of Paintings of the Rijksmuseum. Maarssen: G. Schwartz, 1976, pp. 41-44; Meijer, Th.J. in J. Charité (ed.) Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland. 2. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1985, pp. 459-460; Jansen van Galen, John and Schreurs, Huib. Het huis van nu, waar de toekomst is. Een kleine historie van het Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1895-1995. Naarden, 1995; Van der Ham, Gijs. 200 jaar Rijksmuseum. Geschiedenis van een nationaal symbool. Zwolle: Waanders, 2000, pp. 290-300, 309-330.

    Contributors: Monique Daniels


    Monique Daniels. "Röell, David Cornelis, jonkheer." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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