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Schulte Nordholt, Henk

    Full Name: Schulte Nordholt, Henk

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1909

    Date Died: 1998

    Place Born: Zwolle, Overijssel, Netherlands

    Place Died: Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands

    Subject Area(s): historiography


    Historiographer; professor of art- and cultural history. Schulte Nordholt studied German language and literature, history, and art history at the University of Amsterdam between 1932 and 1939. The next ten years he first taught German and later history at the Rijnlands Lyceum in Wassenaar. During the war, in 1943, he was arrested by the German authorities and spent some time in detention. In 1948 he received his doctorate from the University of Amsterdam with a historiography of the Renaissance, Het beeld der Renaissance. His adviser was the historian Jan Romein (1893-1962). It is a broad survey and analysis of the different scholarly perceptions of the Renaissance, compared and contrasted with the view of his hero Jacob Burckhardt. For the year 1949-50 the Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Pure Scientific Research (ZWO) granted him a travel award, which brought him to Italy. Returned in the Netherlands, he began his academic career as an assistant in the Utrecht Institute of Art History, under J. G. van Gelder. In 1953 he was appointed full professor of art- and cultural history at the University of Groningen, as the successor of Elisabeth Neurdenburg. In his inaugural lecture, ‘De evocatie van het geschonden verleden’ (The Evocation of the Damaged Past), he deplored the devastating impact of the recent war on works of art. As irreplaceable witnesses of the past and as the manifestation of human creativity art works, in his view, needed to be preserved with the deepest respect. Schulte Nordholt is the inspiring founder of the Groningen Art History Institute. He broadened the curriculum by attracting other art historians and specialists. The institute also offered a course for prospective museum employees. Schulte Nordholt himself played an active role in the Groninger Museum, then directed by Josiah Willem Jos de Gruyter. Artists frequently visited the institute. Schulte Nordholt organized annual excursions for his students. He was an excellent teacher whose general lectures attracted a large audience. His preferred fields of teaching were Italian Renaissance, and French and German art. His students also received an introduction into the history of art history. His writings are proof of his broad erudition in the field of cultural history and historiography. In 1957, he published ‘Kunstgeschiedenis als wetenschap.’ (Art History as Science) in the monographic handbook Scientia. In 1962 he was a member of the advisory board for the Vienna exhibition Europäische Kunst um 1400. He contributed to the catalog with an essay on the cultural and historical background of the so-called International Style. In Algemene Geschiedenis der Nederlanden he wrote a chapter on the culture of the 15h-century Burgundian era. In 1965, following his appointment as director of the Nederlands Instituut in Rome, he moved with his wife, Liesbeth Leclercq, and their three children to Italy. His successor in Groningen was Horst Gerson. Every year Schulte Nordholt temporarily returned to Groningen to teach, in the position of professor extraordinarius. In 1966 he was elected corresponding member of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen. In 1979 he retired and settled with his wife in Orgia, to the south of Siena. Between 1983 and 1988 he served as chairman of the Accademia degli Arti del Disegno in Florence. In 1997 he returned with his wife to the Netherlands. The letters to his former students, together with an interview conducted by Henk Van Os and Anton Boschloo, were published in 1998 as Brieven uit Italië, in honor of their mentor, who died in the same year. Schulte Nordholt is primarily known by his contemporaries as an enthusiastic teacher and engaging narrator. He did not leave an impressive list of publications, but his learned writings in the field of historiography are an important contribution in Dutch to the history of art history. In his 1957 essay ‘Kunstgeschiedenis als wetenschap’ which he concludes with expressing his admiration for Studies in Iconology (1939) by Erwin Panofsky, Schulte Nordholt warns against one-sided historical or aesthetical interpretations. His own credo, which he still repeated in 1998, is that art history is the synthesis of Formgeschichte and Geistesgeschichte.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation, University of Amsterdam:] Het beeld der Renaissance. Een historiografische studie. Amsterdam: Querido, 1948; [inaugural lecture, Groningen University:] De evocatie van het geschonden verleden. Amsterdam: Querido, 1953; The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings and Drawings of the 17th Century. Tokyo: The National Museum of Western Art /Yomiuri Shimbun, 1968; “Kunstgeschiedenis als wetenschap.” in Dijksterhuis, E. J., ed. Scientia, handboek voor wetenschap, kunst en religie 2. Zeist: De Haan, 1957, pp. 1-20; “Die geistesgeschichtliche Situation der Zeit um 1400.” in Europäische kunst um 1400. [Exhibition catalog] Wien: Kunsthistorisches Museum, 1962, pp. 27-51; Brieven uit Italië: aan mijn vroegere studenten over leven en werk. Groningen: Instituut voor Kunst- en Architectuurgeschiedenis, 1998.


    Van Os, H. W. ‘Henk Schulte Nordholt, 8 maart 1909 – 9 november 1998.’ Levensberichten en herdenkingen/Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen. Amsterdam: Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, 2000, pp. 62-68; Van Veen, H. Th. “Naar een artistiek mecenaat. Ontwikkeling van de kunstzin aan de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.” in Boom, Eva and Ten Bruggencate, Carolien, eds. Vruchten der Verbeelding: vier eeuwen kunst en kunstzin aan de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Groningen: Dienst Interne Externe Betrekkingen der Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 1999, pp. 7-21. English, “Fruits of Imagination.” Kunsthistorische vrouwen van weleer. De eerste generatie in Nederland vóór 1921. Hilversum: Verloren, 2003, p. 312.

    Contributors: Monique Daniels


    Monique Daniels. "Schulte Nordholt, Henk." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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