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Veth, Jan

    Full Name: Veth, Jan

    Other Names:

    • Jan Pieter Veth

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1864

    Date Died: 1925

    Place Born: Dordrecht, Gemeente, South Holland, Netherlands

    Place Died: Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands

    Subject Area(s): painting (visual works)

    Career(s): art critics


    Painter and art critic. In 1880 Veth began studying painting at the Amsterdam Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten, under August Allebé (1838-1927). After having left the academy, in 1885, he moved to Laren, along with the painter Anton Mauve (1838-1888). In addition to painting, Veth began his career as an art critic. He regularly wrote articles on contemporary artists in De Nieuwe Gids, a periodical founded by a circle of young writers known as the Tachtigers. He also contributed to De Amsterdammer. Weekblad voor Nederland. In 1888 he married Anna Dorothea Dirks. The couple settled in Bussum. Veth made a career of portraiture, working in different techniques: painting, drawing, etching and lithography. In the course of the 1890s he produced a series of 60 lithographs of portraits of famous contemporaries, published in De Amsterdammer, and subsequently in De Kroniek. He regularly traveled abroad to carry out commissions in Germany, England, and the USA. His likenesses, both in painting and drawing, included the artist Adolf von Menzel and the art historian and museum director Wilhelm Bode. His paintings are owned by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (portraits of the baritone Johannes M. Messchaert, 1857-1922, and the director of the Amsterdam Rijksprentenkabinet, Johan Philip van der Kellen, and at the Stedelijk Museum (the painter Jozef Israëls). In 1892 he published an important study on a recent wall painting in the Den Bosch Town hall by Antoon Derkinderen (1859-1925). Sympathetic to the social ideals of fin-de-siecle artists, Veth translated Walter Crane’s Claims of Decorative Art (1892) into Dutch. In 1906, the three hundredth anniversary of Rembrandt’s birthday, his monograph on Rembrandt, Rembrandt’s leven en kunst (Rembrandt’s Life and Art) appeared, which was also translated into German. In the same year, Veth received a doctorate honoris causa from the University of Amsterdam, along with Abraham Bredius, Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, ode, and Émile Michel. In 1914, he joined the editorial board of De Gids. In 1917 Veth was appointed professor of art history and esthetics at the Amsterdam Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten. With the Utrecht archivist Samuel Muller Fz (1848-1922) he was the coauthor of the two-volume 1918 publication, Albrecht Dürers niederländische Reise. This remarkable study, written in German, documents Dürer’s year-long travels (1520-21) in the Low Countries (present day Belgium and the Netherlands). The first volume includes a critical illustrated catalog of Dürer’s sketchbook drawings and other works produced during his trip, while the second part is an analysis of Dürer as an artist, followed by a comprehensive account of the journey in its broader cultural and historical context. Between 1919 and 1921 Veth was actively involved in the reorganization of museums in the Netherlands, as a member of the Rijkscommissie voor het museumwezen (State Commission for Museum Affairs). Veth moved to Amsterdam in 1924. Being in poor health, he retired from his position at the academy. He died a year later, in 1925. Johan Huizinga published a monograph on Veth in 1927, Leven en werk van Jan Veth. He also wrote the introduction to the 1928 posthumous publication of Veth’s work, Een veronachtzaamd hoofdstuk uit onze beschavingsgeschiedenis der zeventiende eeuw. Veth, as artist and writer on art, is known for his skepticism about esthetical judgments by art historians and archivists. In his view true artists have more art critical insight. As a participant in the debate on museum reform he, along with F. Schmidt-Degener, was an advocate of the idea that a museum primarily should be a place to enjoy art. Veth’s books and articles on contemporary artists still are considered important contributions to Dutch modern art history.

    Selected Bibliography

    Jozef Israëls. Haarlem: Tjeenk Willink, 1890; Jean François Millet. Haarlem: Tjeenk Willink, 1891; Derkinderen’s wandbeschildering in het Bossche stadhuis. Amsterdam: Van Looy, 1892; Kunstbeschouwingen: algemeene onderwerpen, reisbrieven, monumenten, oude Nederlandsche kunst. Amsterdam: Van Looy, 1904. Rembrandt’s leven en kunst: geschreven in opdracht van de algemeene commissie ter herdenking van Rembrandt op zijn 300sten geboortedag. Amsterdam: Scheltema & Holkema, 1906; Hollandsche teekenaars van dezen tijd. Amsterdam: S.L. van Looy, 1905; and Muller, Samuel. Albrecht Dürers niederländische Reise. 2 vols. Berlin: Grote, 1918; introduction, Huizinga, Johannes. Een veronachtzaamd hoofdstuk uit onze beschavingsgeschiedenis der zeventiende eeuw. Haarlem: Tjeenk Willink, 1928.


    Bijl de Vroe, Fusien. De schilder Jan Veth 1864-1925. Chroniqueur van een bewogen tijdperk. Amsterdam: T. Rap, 1987; “Veth, Jan Pieter.” Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart 34. Leipzig: W. Engelmann, p. 314; Huizinga, Johan. Leven en werk van Jan Veth. Haarlem: Tjeenk Willink, 1927; Ekkart, R. E. O. Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland 3. The Hague, 1989: 621-622; Blotkamp, Carel “Kunstgeschiedenis en moderne kunst: een lange aanloop.” in Hecht, Peter, and Stolwijk, Chris, and Hoogenboom, Annemieke, eds., Kunstgeschiedenis in Nederland. Negen opstellen. Amsterdam: Prometheus, 1998, pp. 91-93; Haveman, Mariëtte and others “Jan Veth 1864-1925 ‘het is geen genot te werken, het is een drift …'”. Kunstschrift 49,1 (February-March 2005); [obituary:] Der Kinderen, A. J. Handelingen van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde te Leiden en Levensberichten harer afgestorven medeleden 1925-1926. pp. 1-16.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen and Monique Daniels


    Lee Sorensen and Monique Daniels. "Veth, Jan." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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