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Van de Waal, Henri

    Full Name: Van de Waal, Henri

    Other Names:

    • Henri van de Waal

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 03 March 1910

    Date Died: 07 May 1972

    Place Born: Rotterdam, South Holland, Netherlands

    Place Died: Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands

    Subject Area(s): iconography


    Professor of art history; founder of Iconclass. Van de Waal was the son of Elias van de Waal, a goldsmith, and Henriette Seckel. The young Van de Waal attended high school at the Rotterdam Gymnasium Erasmianum. In 1929 he began studying Dutch language and literature at the University of Leiden. From 1932 onwards he in addition studied history of art. After his graduation, in 1934, he was appointed assistant of the Prentenkabinet (print room) at Leiden University. In 1939 he married Liliane Dufresne. He earned his doctor’s degree in 1940, also at Leiden, with a dissertation on seventeenth-century representations in Dutch art of the Batavian revolt against the Romans, Zeventiende-eeuwsche uitbeeldingen van den Bataafschen Opstand. The first three chapters were published in 1940. An expanded version of his dissertation was ready for publication in 1942, but the set type was damaged during the war. In November 1940 Van de Waal, being Jewish, lost his position at the Leiden Prentenkabinet under the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. In 1941 his monograph on Jan van Goyen appeared. From March 1943 until March 1945, he was interned in the camps of Barneveld and Westerbork, along with a great number of Dutch Jews, many of whom were subsequently transferred to the camps in the East. Van de Waal eventually regained his freedom, but his health was badly affected for the rest of his life. During this period he nevertheless was able to translate in Dutch Les maîtres d’autrefois (1876) by Eugène Fromentin, De meesters van weleer (published in 1951). After the war, In June 1945, Van de Waal returned to the Prentenkabinet, now as its director. In December he in addition was appointed professor extraordinarius of Art History at Leiden University, as the successor of Wilhelm Martin. In his 1946 inaugural lecture, Traditie en Bezieling (Tradition and Inspiration) he pleaded for an iconological approach of the history of art. In August of the same year Van de Waal was appointed professor ordinarius, a position he held until the end of his life. Van de Waal also was active in several organizations, such as the association for esthetic education in secondary schools (VÆVO). Between 1947 and 1956 he served as the editor in chief of the Bulletin Koninklijke Nederlandse Oudheidkundige Bond. The expanded version of his dissertation eventually was published in 1952: Drie eeuwen vaderlandsche geschied-uitbeelding, 1500-1800. Een iconologische studie. The study and classification of images retained his interest throughout his life. In the early 1950s he designed an iconographic classification system that was first applied in the Decimal Index of the Art of the Low Countries (DIAL), a photo cards publication of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie in The Hague. The system became known as Iconclass. In his capacity as director of the Prentenkabinet, he re-arranged the print collection. With the acquisition in 1953 of the so-called “Fotografisch Museum” of August Grégoire, he founded in Leiden the department of the history of photography. In 1957 he was elected a member of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen. In the same year he purchased 5,800 drawings of the northern and southern Netherlands collected by Dr. A. Welcker. He further broadened the Prentenkabinet collection in 1968 and 1969. An abridged version of the DIAL/Iconclass system was published in 1968. In 1970 M. Muller Massis donated his photographic collection to the department of the history of photography. He died suddenly in 1972. After Van de Waal’s death Iconclass was continued and published by L. D. Couprie, E. Tholen and others (1973-1985). Van de Waal published several articles on Rembrandt, which were bundled posthumously in 1974, Steps towards Rembrandt. Collected articles 1937-1972. Van de Waal was an eloquent teacher, but feared by many of his students. He encouraged them to recognize craftsmanship as the basis of art and expected them to be fully engaged and interested. Van de Waal taught his students to look consciously and attentively at the art work, paying attention to its content, form and function. His Drie eeuwen vaderlandsche geschied-uitbeelding examines Dutch historical iconography of the sixteenth to the eighteenth century in relation to religion, literature, social history, philosophy etc. Essential in his view of visual art was the existence of iconographic groups, constituted by representations thematically related to each other. Jan Białostocki, described Van de Waal in 1971 as “one of the masters of the study of images.” Horst Gerson called van de Waal an “eloquent and brilliant teacher” who encouraged his pupils to recognize workmanship, rather than merely gathering knowledge about works of art.

    Selected Bibliography

    [complete bibliography:] Tholen, E. “Lijst van publikaties van H. van de Waal (tot 1 januari 1970)”, in L. D. Couprie and others (eds.) Opstellen voor H. van de Waal. Aangeboden door leerlingen en medewerkers 3 maart 1970. Amsterdam: Scheltema & Holkema/Leiden: Universitaire Pers [1970]: 241-243; “Publicaties van H. Van de Waal” in Henri van de Waal. Bundel ter gelegenheid van zijn honderdste geboortedag. Leiden: Coördesign, 2010, p. 61-65; [dissertation:] Zeventiende-eeuwsche uitbeeldingen van den Bataafschen Opstand. Leiden, 1940; Traditie en Bezieling. Rede uitgesproken bij de aanvaarding van het ambt van buitengewoon hoogleraar in de kunstgeschiedenis aan de Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden op 22 maart 1946 door Dr. H. Van de Waal. Rotterdam-Antwerp: Ad. Donker, 1946. Reprint in Henri van de Waal. Bundel ter gelegenheid van zijn honderdste geboortedag. Leiden: Coördesign, 2010; Jan van Goyen. Amsterdam: Becht, 1941; Drie eeuwen vaderlandsche geschied-uitbeelding 1500-1800. Een iconologische studie. 2 vols. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1952; Decimal Index of the Art of the Low Countries D.I.A.L. Abridged edition of the Iconclass System. The Hague: Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, 1968; [posthumous editions:] Iconclass: an iconographic classification system. Completed and edited by L. D. Couprie, E. Tholen et al. 17 vols. Amsterdam: North Holland, 1973-1985; Fuchs, R. H. (ed.) Steps towards Rembrandt: Collected articles 1937-1972. Amsterdam-London: North Holland, 1974.


    [review:] Bialostocky, Jan. “H. van de Waal, Drie eeuwen vaderlandsche geschied-uitbeelding, 1500-1800: een iconologische studie.” The Art Bulletin, 53 (1971): 262-265; Tholen, E. “Beknopte geschiedenis van het Prentenkabinet der Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden”. Oude Tekeningen van het Prentenkabinet der Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, Amsterdam: Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst, 1985: 9-14 (mentioned); Ekkart, R. E. O. “Waal, Henri (Hans) van de” Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland, 3, The Hague, 1989, p. 642-644; Beilmann, Mechthild. “Hans van de Waal (1910-1972)” in Dilly, Heinrich (ed.) Altmeister moderner Kunstgeschichte. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1990: 204-219 (see also p.14); Boom, M. “Apologie van de fotografie. Prof. Dr. H. Van de Waals essentiële rol in de vorming van Nederlands eerste publieke foto-collectie in het Prentenkabinet (1953-1972)” in Heijbroek, J.F., Ekkart, R. E. O., and Bolten, J. (eds.) Het Leidse Prentenkabinet. De geschiedenis van de verzamelingen. (Leids Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 9) Baarn: de Prom, 1994: 323-344; Sluijter, Eric Jan. “Traditie en bezieling: Henri van de Waal (1910-1972)” in Hecht, Peter, Hoogenboom, Annemieke, and Stolwijk, Chris (eds.) in Kunstgeschiedenis in Nederland. Negen opstellen. Amsterdam: Prometheus, 1998: 145-168; Ekkart, Rudi, and Bavelaar, Hestia, and Couprie, Leendert, and Fuchs, Rudi, and Van de Waal, André. Henri van de Waal. Bundel ter gelegenheid van zijn honderdste geboortedag. Leiden: Coördesign, 2010; [obituaries:] Dresden, S. “Hans van de Waal, Rotterdam 3 maart 1910 – Leiden 7 mei 1972” Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde 1972-1973: 234-243; Fuchs, R.H. “Henri van de Waal, 1910-1972” Simiolus 6, 1 (1972-1973): 4-7; Terwen, J. J. “In Memoriam Prof. Dr. H. van de Waal 3 maart 1910 – 7 mei 1972” Nieuwsbulletin van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Oudheidkundige Bond 6 (1972): 71-72; Gerson, Horst. “Herdenking van Hans van de Waal (3 maart 1910 – 7 mei 1972)” Jaarboek 1972 Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen Amsterdam: B.V. Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij, 1973: 166-180; Lunsingh Scheurleer, Th. H. “In memoriam prof. dr. H. van de Waal” Acta et Agenda. Informatie- en opinieblad van de Leidse Universiteit 4 (1971-1972), nr. 33 (May 11, 1972): 497.

    Contributors: Monique Daniels


    Monique Daniels. "Van de Waal, Henri." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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