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Singelenberg, Pieter

    Full Name: Singelenberg, Pieter

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1918

    Date Died: 2007

    Place Born: Tilburg, North Brabant, Netherlands

    Place Died: The Hague, South Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands

    Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre), Dutch (culture or style), and sculpture (visual works)


    Netherlands Historian of architecture, art history professor. Singelenberg grew up in The Hague and in the nearby village of Wassenaar. After graduating from high school (HBS B) he began studying medicine at Leiden University. In 1939, during war mobilization, he was recruited for military service. When he was able to resume his study, Singelenberg switched to art history at Utrecht University, beginning in 1941. He studied under Willem Vogelsang, Louis Grondijs (1878-1961), and later under G. J. Hoogewerff. The last two years of German occupation Singelenberg lived in hiding. In 1946 he married Miep van der Meer (1917-2008). In that year he obtained an assistantship under Grondijs, professor of iconography and religious art at Utrecht University, where he taught iconography. After his graduation, in 1953, he stayed in Utrecht conducting research in Byzantine and mediaeval art. One of his topics was a sixth-century Byzantine ivory relief, the so called Etschmiadzin Diptych. He published the results of this study in the Art Bulletin in 1958. Between 1956 and 1964 he served as the keeper of the art history institute, playing an active role in its development as an important study center. During that period he began researching architecture, especially the period around 1900. He traveled to the U.S. in 1956 and, in the academic year 1956-57, he taught the history of architecture at Oberlin College as well as gothic architecture and painting, from Giotto to Cézanne, at New York University. In 1965 he began research for his doctoral dissertation on the Dutch architect H. P. Berlage (1856-1934) under Murk Daniël Ozinga, who died in 1968. In 1969 Singelberg’s short monograph on Berlage appeared in the series Beeldende kunsten en bouwkunst in Nederland. In 1971 Singelenberg obtained his doctor’s degree from Utrecht University under Jacobus Johannes Terwen (1916-1998), an engineer and professor at Delft University of Technology. His dissertation published in 1972, was H. P. Berlage; Idea and Style: The Quest for Modern Architecture. His extensive article on the Hague Gemeentemuseum, designed by Berlage and built between 1931 and 1935, appeared in 1975. In that year Singelenberg was appointed lector in art history, focusing on architecture after 1750, at his Alma Mater. In 1978 he left Utrecht for Nijmegen, accepting the position of professor of art history at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. He retired in 1984 and was succeeded by the Rembrandt scholar Christian Tümpel. The topic of his 1985 farewell lecture was Berlage’s functionalism (zakelijkheid) and the rationalism of the Dutch architect and designer of furniture Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964). From the 1970s onwards, Singelenberg, together with his wife and his son, Pieter Jr. gathered a private art collection, which included furniture, glass and ceramics. Miep Singelenberg-Van der Meer was a specialist in the field of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Dutch glasswork and ceramics. In 1986 Singelenberg taught at the University of Louisville (Kentucky) as Frederick Lindley Morgan Professor in Architectural History. Singelenberg also remained active in the field of the preservation of monuments. In 1995 he left his Utrecht house, designed by Rietveld, and moved to The Hague. In 1996 his monograph on the Hague Municipal Museum, designed by Berlage, appeared as a follow up to his 1975 article on this topic. He also wrote several entries on Dutch architects for The Dictionary of Art. He died at age 88. In his dissertation, H. P. Berlage; Idea and Style, Singelenberg traced Berlage’s artistic development up to his famous 1903 Amsterdam Exchange building. With respect to Berlage’s philosophical and social ideas, Singelenberg devoted ample attention to the writings of Gottfried Semper, which were of great importance to Berlage as a modern architect. In addition to paying attention to other “teachers” of Berlage, such as Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, Singelenberg focused on Berlage’s place within, and personal contribution to, the development of the modern style in North America and Europe. Hans L. C. Jaffé, in his 1975 review in the Burlington Magazine, considered Singelenberg’s detailed study a very successful contribution to the tradition of Kunstgeschiche als Geistesgeschichte. In the article on Berlage’s The Hague Gemeentemuseum, Singelenberg points to the socio-cultural ideas of Alfred Lichtwark and the practical recommendations of Benjamin Ives Gilman, who both had an impact on Berlage’s designs and on his pragmatic approach to the architecture of the building.


    [review:] Jaffé, H. L. Burlington Magazine 117 (1975, nr. 867): 406-409; De Klerck, Bram. “Pieter Singelenberg Tilburg 2 augustus 1918 – Den Haag 21 februari 2007” Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde te Leiden 2007-2008. pp. 144-153; [obituaries:] Eaton, Leonard K. “Pieter Singelenberg, 1918-2007” Society of Architectural Historians Newsletter (August-September 2007): 13-14; Van Leeuwen, Wies. “Herinnering aan Pieter Singelenberg” Cuypersbulletin 12 (2007,3): 7-8; Peij, Ineke. “In memoriam professor dr. Pieter Singelenberg (1918-2007), kunsthistoricus” Desipientia; Zin & Waan 15 (2008,1): 41; [dissertation:] H. P. Berlage: Idea and Style.The Quest for Modern Architecture. Utrecht: Haentjens Dekker & Gumbert, 1972; “Het Haags Gemeentemuseum” in H. P.Berlage; een bouiwmeester en zjn tijd. Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 25 (1974) Bussum: Fibula-Van Dishoeck, 1975, pp. 1-89; [farewell lecture Catholic University Nijmegen:] Over zakelijkheid bij Berlage en rationalisme bij Rietveld. Nijmegen, 1985; Het Haags Gemeentemuseum van H. P. Berlage. The Hague, 1996.

    Contributors: Monique Daniels


    Monique Daniels. "Singelenberg, Pieter." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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