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Sandberg, Willem Jacob Henri Berend, Jonkheer

    Full Name: Sandberg, Willem Jacob Henri Berend, Jonkheer

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1897

    Date Died: 1984

    Place Born: Amersfoort, Utrecht, Netherlands

    Place Died: Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands

    Subject Area(s): typology

    Career(s): designers


    Typographer; designer; director Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum (1945-1962). Sandberg grew up in Amersfoort and, from 1904, in Assen, where he attended the Gymnasium. His father had a governmental function as Registrar of the Province of Drenthe. During World War I he did his military service (The Netherlands remained neutral) and subsequently he moved to Amsterdam in 1919. For a short time he attended the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1920 he married Amy Frankamp (1885-1969). Following a stay in Italy he traveled to Jungborn in Germany, for a cure in a natural health sanatorium. In Herrliberg, Switzerland, he joined the Mazdaznan movement and met Johannes Itten, whom he later visited at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany. Sandberg also began developing his typographical skills, which marked his later career as designer. In Amsterdam he founded the Dutch Mazdaznan center. After his divorce, he remarried, in 1927, Alida Augustin-Swaneveld (1885-1974), and spent some time in Vienna. In Berlin he met the artist Naum Gabo. In 1928 he returned to Amsterdam to work as a designer. In the following years he studied psychology at Utrecht University, where he also attended lectures in art history. In 1932 he joined the Netherlands Association for Crafts and Industrial Art (VANK). As a representative of this association he became involved in the organization of exhibitions in the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, where he also was given assignments as designer. In 1938 he was appointed curator and assistant director under David Cornelis Röell. During the next ten years he was a member of the exhibition council for architecture and applied arts. One of his concerns was the protection of art works in wartime. He traveled to Spain to explore this problem, and published “Bescherming van kunstschatten in oorlogstijd.” After the German invasion in 1940, he joined the resistance. In 1945 he was appointed director of the Stedelijk Museum. In the same year he organized a retrospective of the work of the Groningen printer and painter Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman (1882-1945), who had been arrested by the Nazis and executed a few days before the liberation of the city of Groningen. Sandberg’s overall policy since he entered the museum was to adapt it to modern standards. The interior renovation began in 1938, and the new wing and further extensions were added in the 1950s. Sandberg published several articles on the modernization of the Stedelijk. He frequently organized international exhibitions, such as “COBRA” (1949), “De Stijl” (1951), “Bauen und Formen in Holland, 1920 bis Heute” (1958), “Van natuur tot kunst” (1960). In 1961, he coauthored with deputy director Hans L. C. Jaffé Kunst van heden in het Stedelijk. In 1962 Sandberg was involved in the organization of the exhibition “Art Since 1950” for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and in the same year he received an honorary doctorate from the University at Buffalo, New York. He also was awarded the 1962 Medal of AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts). The city of Amsterdam awarded him the Gold Medal. In December 1962 he retired from his position at the Stedelijk. On that occasion he received art works from about 100 artists, which he donated to the museum. He was succeeded by Eduard Leon Louis de Wilde (director between 1963 and 1985) and by designer Wim Crouwel (b. 1928). Between 1964 and 1968, Sandberg spent most of his time in Jerusalem. He served as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Israel Museum, which opened in 1965. In 1969-1970 he lectured for a short time in the USA, at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts of Harvard University. In 1975 he received the Erasmus Prize in Amsterdam, together with E. H. Gombrich. Sandberg continued designing and publishing up to the 1980s. In 1982, he was honored with an exhibition which focused on his former position as museum man, in combination with his function as typographer, Sandberg, typograaf als museumman. After his death, in 1984, Sandberg’s legacy as designer and as pioneering museum director was highlighted in various exhibitions in The Netherlands and abroad, as well as in publications which continue appearing to this day.

    Selected Bibliography

    [complete bibliography:] Petersen, Ad. Sandberg: vormgever van het Stedelijk. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2004, English, Sandberg: Designer and Director of the Stedelijk. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2004, pp. 177-183; “Bescherming van kunstschatten in oorlogstijd” Kroniek van Kunst en Kultuur 4, 3 (1938); [and others] 9 jaar Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam 1945-’54. Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1954; “De nieuwe vleugel van het Stedelijk Museum te Amsterdam” Museumjournaal 1, no. 1 (1955); Nu, midden in de XXe eeuw, de kunst en het leven. Hilversum: Steendrukkerij de Jong & Co, 1959; and Jaffé, H. L. C. Kunst van heden in het Stedelijk, Amsterdam. Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum and J. M. Meulenhoff, 1961; “Sandberg over zijn werk in het Stedelijk” Museumjournaal special issue, series 8, no 8/9 (April/May 1963).


    [contributions on Sandberg by several authors:] De collectie Sandberg. Amsterdam: J. M. Meulenhof, 1962; Petersen, Ad and Brattinga, Pieter. Sandberg, een documentaire / a Documentary. Amsterdam: Kosmos, 1975; Leeuw-Marcar, Ank. Willem Sandberg, portret van een kunstenaar. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1981; Kassies, Jan “Sandberg heilig overtuigd van noodzaak om te schokken” De Volkskrant (April 10, 1984); Petersen, Ad. “Vitaliteit, karakter, volharding” Het Parool (April 13, 1984); Visser, Mathilde “Eenvoud kenmerkte Willem Sandberg” Het financieele dagblad (April 16, 1984); Jaffé, H. L. C. “Willem Sandberg toonde moed in verzet en kunst” NIW (April 20, 1984); Cornelissen, Igor “Alleen naar voren kijken is goed” and Stokvis, Willemijn “De weg naar de vrijheid” Vrij Nederland (April 21, 1984); Boom, A. L. (Fens, Kees) “Sandberg en het wit” De Tijd (April 27, 1984); Michel, Jacques “Mort de Willem Sandberg” Le Monde (May 2, 1984); Art in America 72 (September 1984): 247-8; Jaffé, H. L. C. “Willem Sandberg” Jong Holland [unnumbered first issue] (November 1984): 53-54; Treumann, Otto “Sandberg Dead” Icograda board message 4 (November 1984): 1-3; Petersen, Ad. Sandberg: vormgever van het Stedelijk. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2004, English, Sandberg: Designer and Director of the Stedelijk. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2004; Roodenburg-Schadd, Caroline. Expressie en ordening: het verzamelbeleid van Willem Sandberg voor het Stedelijk Museum, 1945-1962. Rotterdam: NAi Uitgevers, 2004.

    Contributors: Monique Daniels


    Monique Daniels. "Sandberg, Willem Jacob Henri Berend, Jonkheer." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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