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Vogelsang, Willem

    Full Name: Vogelsang, Willem

    Other Names:

    • Willem Vogelsang

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1875

    Date Died: 1954

    Place Born: Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands

    Place Died: Utrecht, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands


    First professor of art history in the Netherlands, founder, Utrecht Institute for Art History. Vogelsang grew up in Leiden, Freiburg and Delft, where he attended the Gymnasium. Because no Dutch university included art history as a subject, he studied art history in Freiburg, Vienna, and Paris, finally writing his dissertation in Munich. His1898 thesis was on Dutch miniatures of the late middle ages. His privaatdocent appointment came in 1900 at the University of Amsterdam. At that time art history courses in Amsterdam were limited mostly to Greco-Roman art, under the responsibility of professor Jan Six (1857-1926). Vogelsang, teaching postclassical art history, attracted an increasing number of students, including many from outside the university. In 1903 he was appointed assistant director of the Nederlandsch Museum voor Geschiedenis en Kunst, the Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts, part of the Rijksmuseum. He immediately began contributing articles in a wide variety of venues and languages. His “News from Holland” became a periodic feature in the Burlington Magazine. In 1907 Vogelsang was appointed professor of art history–the first full professor of that field in the Netherlands–at the University in Utrecht. As professor of “Aesthetiek en Kunstgeschiedenis,” he taught a wide variety of periods of European art history and attracting many students, particularly because of his lecturing skills. Lacking facilities to teach art in the university, Vogelsang lectured out of his home, using his personal library as the reference tools. Between 1907 and 1910 he published on the Dutch furniture housed in the Rijksmuseum. In 1911-1912, Die Holzskulptur in den Niederländen appeared, a two volume-catalog of medieval sculpture in wood, in the Aartsbischoppelijk Museum of Utrecht (the museum of the Archbishopric Utrecht) and in the Nederlandsch Museum voor Geschiedenis en Kunst. All the while, Vogelsang continued to build a research center for art, the Utrecht Institute for Art History. Though a medievalist, Vogelsang championed many periods of art, including contemporary art which he contended deserved the same scholarly attention other fields did. Under his direction, the Institute of Art History expanded and flourished. He retired in 1946, succeeded by Jan Gerrit van Gelder, his student. The main focus of Vogelsang’s art teaching was the formal analysis of works of art, interpreting them as a visual language. In this respect the influence of Heinrich Wölfflin is clear. Vogelsang’s teaching and duties as director of the Institute occupied a great deal of his time. Among other, H. E. van Gelder, commenting on Vogelsang’s membership in the Oudheidkundige Bond, lamented how such activities inevitably competed with his publications. However, Vogelsang used his administrative positions to effect considerable change, pushing for the reorganization of museums and arguing strongly for a full doctoral program of art history for museum employees. This was eventually realized in 1921. Vogelsang’s selected lectures and writings, contained in a book called Commentarii (after Ghiberti’s of the same title), give a glimpse of his lecturing style. He was known as an inspired lecturer and a gentle teacher in stark contrast to the “stern professor model” prevalent among faculty of the time. In addition to van Gelder, his students included G. J. Hoogewerff and Frithjof W. S. van Thienen.

    Selected Bibliography

    [see M.E. Houtzager in Willem Vogelsang. 1875 9 augustus 1950, mentioned above: 45-71, for complete bibliography]; Holländische Miniaturen des späteren Mittelalters. Studien zur Deutschen Kunstgeschichte,18. Strassburg: J.H. Ed. Heitz (Heitz & Mündel) 1899; Aesthetiek en Kunstgeschiedenis aan de Universiteit. Rede bij de aanvaarding van het hoogleeraarsambt aan de Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht den 23sten September 1907. Utrecht: A. Oosthoek, 1907; Catalogus van de meubelen in het Nederlandsch Museum voor Geschiedenis en Kunst te Amsterdam. Amsterdam: Nederlandsch Museum voor Geschiedenis en Kunst, 1907; Holländische Möbel im Niederländischen Museum zu Amsterdam. Amsterdam, Nederlandsch Museum voor Geschiedenis en Kunst, 1910; Die Holzskulptur in den Niederländen. 2 vols. I Das Erzbischöfliche Museum zu Utrecht; II Das Niederländische Museum zu Amsterdam. Utrecht: A. Oosthoek, 1911-1912; Veertig jaren kunstgeschiedenis aan de Universiteit te Utrecht. Afscheidscollege gehouden op 12 November 1946 door Prof. Dr. W. Vogelsang. Utrecht: Kunsthistorisch Instituut der Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht, 1947.


    Veertig jaren kunstgeschiedenis aan de Universiteit te Utrecht. Afscheidscollege gehouden op 12 November 1946 door Prof. Dr. W. Vogelsang. Utrecht: Kunsthistorisch Instituut der Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht, 1947; Willem Vogelsang. 1875 9 augustus 1950. Commentarii. Aangeboden door zijn vrienden ter gelegenheid van zijn vijf en zeventigsten verjaardag. Edited by J.G. van Gelder, M. Elisabeth Houtzager and Béatrice Jansen; Van Gelder, H.E. “Herinneringen aan drie paladijnen” Bulletin van de Koninklijke Nederlandse Oudheidkundige Bond 6e serie 8 (1955): 165-178; Odding, Arnoud. ‘… ein durchaus paedagogischer Mensch.’ Willem Vogelsang achttienhonderdvijfenzeventig – negentienhonderdvierenvijftig. Ph. D., dissertation, Rijksuniversiteit Leiden, 1994; Halbertsma, Marlite “Die Kunstgeschichte in den Deutschsprachigen Ländern und den Niederlanden 1764-1933: ein überblick,” in Halbertsma, Marlite; Zijlmans, Kitty (eds.) Gesichtspunkte. Kunstgeschichte heute. Translated from Dutch to German by Thomas Guirten. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1995: 58; Hoogenboom, Annemieke “Kunstgeschiedenis aan de universiteit: Willem Vogelsang (1875-1954) en Wilhelm Martin (1876-1954)” in Hecht, Peter; Hoogenboom, Annemieke; Stolwijk, Chris (eds.) Kunstgeschiedenis in Nederland. Negen opstellen. Amsterdam: Prometheus, 1998, pp. 25-43; Stolwijk, Chris “J.G. van Gelder” ibidem: 127-143; Blotkamp, Carel “Kunstgeschiedenis en moderne kunst: een lange aanloop” ibidem: 89-104; Festschrift: Feestbundel voor Profesor Doctor Willem Vogelsang, MCMVII – 30 September – MCMXXXII. Leiden: N.V. Boekhandel en Drukkerij voorheen E.J. Brill, 1932; Knipping, John B. Obituary, Burlington Magazine 97 (May 1955): 152.

    Contributors: Monique Daniels


    Monique Daniels. "Vogelsang, Willem." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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