Coauthor of lexicon of artists, Geschiedenis der vaderlandse schilderkunst, sedert de helft der XVIII eeuw. Van der Willigen took the initiative to write the history of artists living in the Netherlands from the middle of the eighteenth century up to his time. In search for information on artists he published, in 1814, a request in the Algemeene konst- en letterbode. Among those who responded was Roeland van Eynden, who subsequently became the coauthor of the project. Both Van Eynden and Van der Willigen were members of the Koninklijk Nederlandsch Instituut and generally involved with the cultural life of the Netherlands. Van der Willigen, who served briefly in the army, was an art lover who had published his travels in France and England as well as a treatise on national history painting in 1806. The two men published Geschiedenis der vaderlandse schilderkunst, sedert de helft der XVIII eeuw, a four-volume work, completed with engravings. The book was written to add to earlier biographical dictionaries of artists such as those written by Karel Van Mander, Arnold Houbraken, and Johan Van Gool. Its content, however, is broader than the title indicates. The book goes back to the sixteenth century, covering sculptors, engravers, and architects in addition to painters. Van Eynden provided most of the content of the first volume, which appeared in 1816. It deals in chronological order with artists not mentioned by their predecessors. The second volume (1817) largely written by Van der Willigen, deals with the lives of painters already mentioned in Van Gool's 1750-1751 Nieuwe Schouburg, continuing with artists born after that date. Van Eynden, already in poor health during the second volume's appearance, died in 1819. The third volume (1820) contains biographies of contemporary artists, and information on art collections, cabinets, art schools, academies, exhibitions etc. A fourth volume appeared in 1840, which acted as an appendix. His nephew was the documents-style scholar of Dutch art, Adriaan van der Willigen (1810-1876). The Geschiedenis provides information on more than 1500 artists and art collectors. The authors deliberately refrained from writing slanderous anecdotes on artists, as had been done in earlier publications. Van der Willigen and Van Eynden had access to excellent libraries, searched archives, and gathered firsthand information on contemporary art. They primarily focused on the Dutch school of artists, but when the southern Netherlands were united with the northern Netherlands under King Willem I in 1815, they began including Flemish artists. In 1997, and index to the Geschiedenis was published by Ton Geerts, making it still a useful reference work on the history of Netherlandish art.
Willigen, Adriaan, van der
Adriaan van der Willigen
12 May 1766
17 January 1841
and Van Eynden, Roeland. Geschiedenis der vaderlandse schilderkunst, sedert de helft der XVIII eeuw. 4 vols. Haarlem: A. Loosjes Pz., 1816-1840.
Van der Willigen Pz., Adriaan. "Nader berigt wegens A. van der Willigen en zijne geschriften" Kunst en Letterbode (1841); Van der AA, A. J. Biografisch Woordenboek der Nederlanden. 7 (1852): 88-89; Zuidema, R. "Willigen (Adriaan van der)" in Blok, P. J. and Molhuysen, P. C. Nieuw Nederlandsch biografisch woordenboek. 10 (1937): 1216-1217; Van Beek, Pierre. "Adriaan van der Willigen" Het Nieuwblad van het Zuiden January 6, February 10, May 8, 1973;