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Vries, A. B., de

    Full Name: Vries, A. B., de

    Other Names:

    • A. B. de Vries

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1905

    Date Died: 1983

    Place Born: Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands

    Subject Area(s): Dutch (culture or style) and painting (visual works)


    Director Royal Cabinet of Paintings the Mauritshuis, and Rijksmuseum H. W. Mesdag, both in The Hague. De Vries grew up in Amsterdam and studied art history at Utrecht University under Willem Vogelsang. After a period of study in Paris in 1927-28, he went to Vienna (1929), where Julius Alwin von Schlosser, Karl Maria Swoboda, and Josef Rudolf Thomas Strzygowski were his teachers, von Schlosser influencing him most deeply. Following his stay in Vienna he went to Rome, where he became an assistant at the Nederlands Historisch Instituut under G. J. Hoogewerff. After his graduation from Utrecht in 1930 he prepared his doctorate which he earned at the same university in 1934 with a dissertation supervised by Vogelsang on North Netherlands portraits in the second half of the sixteenth century, Het Noord-Nederlandsch portret in the tweede helft van de 16e eeuw. In the same year he was appointed a staff member in the Department of Paintings at the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum. In 1939 he published his Vermeer monograph, Jan Vermeer van Delft. When the German invaded the Netherlands in 1940 he lost his position because he was Jewish; he fled to Switzerland in 1943. Later, in London, the Dutch Government in exile charged him to prepare the recovering of art works looted by the Nazis. After the war, De Vries returned to the Netherlands. In 1946 he succeeded J. G. van Gelder as the director of the Netherlands Institute for Art History, Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD), and of the Royal Cabinet of Paintings the Mauritshuis, in The Hague. Wilhelm Martin had served this museum until 1945. De Vries’ acquisitions enriched the collection with about fifty works, including a late self portrait of Rembrandt, purchased in 1947. In 1954 he in addition was appointed director of the Rijksmuseum H. W. Mesdag in The Hague, as the successor of Martin. In that year he quit the Netherlands Institute for Art History. In 1956, on the occasion of the Rembrandt commemoration, he published a booklet on the life and works of the master, Rembrandt: 1606-1956. In that anniversary year, he was actively involved in the Rembrandt exhibitions held successively in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum and in the Museum Boymans in Rotterdam. The exhibitions that he organized in the Mauritshuis, such as Jan Steen (1958) and In the light of Vermeer (1966), were very successful. In 1968, two years before his retirement, De Vries began collaborating with Magdi Tóth-Ubbens and W. Froentjes on a comprehensive interdisciplinary study of thirteen Rembrandts and three non-authentic Rembrandts in the Mauritshuis collection. In 1970 he organized a show on Goya. On the occasion of his retirement in the same year, the exhibition 25 years of acquisitions was held in his honor. It was a testimony “to de Vries’ taste, artistic judgement and unstinting energy” (Hoetink, 1984). De Vries was a 1973 visiting lecturer at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. His co-published Rembrandt research, Rembrandt in the Mauritshuis, was published in 1978. De Vries was the “auctor intellectualis” of the project (J. G. van Gelder, 1980) and was responsible for the iconographical and stylistic study of the paintings. In the first chapter of his book, Jan Vermeer van Delft, De Vries pays tribute to the first Vermeer monograph by Etienne-Joseph-Théophile Thoré, published in 1866, twenty-four years after this Frenchman admired “View of Delft” in the Mauritshuis. In his own monograph De Vries focuses on the study of Vermeer’s works and their aesthetic relation with paintings by other artists. In the 1948 English edition, De Vries deals with the discovery, after the war, of the Vermeer falsifications by Hans van Meegeren (1889-1947) including the “Supper at Emmaus,” the most discussed forgery of that time. De Vries admitted that in the earlier Dutch (1939) and Swiss (1945) editions of his work he had assumed that the painting was authentic.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation Utrecht University:] Het Noord-Nederlandsche portret in the tweede helft van de 16e eeuw. Amsterdam: Enum, 1934; Jan Vermeer van Delft. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1939; Rembrandt: 1606-1956. Baarn: Het Wereldvenster, 1956; and Tóth-Ubbens, Magdi and Froentjes, W. Rembrandt in the Mauritshuis. An interdisciplinary study. Alphen aan de Rijn: Sijthoff & Noordhoff International Publishers B.V., 1978; [Book Review:] Van Gelder, J. G. “Rembrandt in het Mauritshuis.” Oud Holland 94 (1980): 209-212.


    [obituary:] Hoetink, H. R. “Ary Bob de Vries (1905-1983).” Burlington Magazine 126, no 981 (December 1984): 782.

    Contributors: Monique Daniels


    Monique Daniels. "Vries, A. B., de." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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