RKD Netherland Institute for art History
A little courtyard in Haarlem, a woman selling fish, flower still lives, characterful portraits of both people and animals, landscapes and copies of seventeenth-century masters: Wybrand Hendriks (1759-1831) painted it all. He worked in almost every conceivable genre, something that few of his contemporaries managed. But it does not end there. Hendriks was not just an artist, he was also curator of the art collection of Teylers Museum. He lived as a so-colled 'congierge' next-door to the museum in Pieter Teylers House and maintained his studio there as well. In this way he could combine caring for the collection with his work as an artist. Hendriks was required to maintain the collections and carry out restorations when needed. He could also make purchases. His most important acquisition is a group of Italian drawings including works by Raphael and Michelangelo, partly from the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden.
Hendriks painted the Haarlem street life of his time with its chambermaids, paper boys, people walking the streets and fisherwomen. His picturing of daily life from around 1800 earned him the title ‘chronicler of his time’. Even the resident cat in Pieter Teylers House appears in some of his drawings. Besides these everyday scenes, Hendriks also regularly depicted the patriotic strife and economic decline that afflicted the Netherlands at the end of the eighteenth century. When, in the course of the eighteenth century, the economy in the west of the country stagnated leading to a deep recession, people became critical of the government. In 1786 political tensions escalated, leading to a civil war between followers of the Prince of Orange and the Patriots. The Haarlem town council, consisting mainly of Patriot supporters, took the decision to reorganise the city’s militia. Hendriks witnessed the swearing in of the new civic guard battalion Pro Aris et Focis, recording the event in a drawing. His political drawings were engraved and widely distributed, and they have come to constitute the official visual account of Haarlem’s patriotic revolution.
Another facet of Hendriks’s many-sided oeuvre are his works inspired by seventeenth-century artists such as Jan de Bray, Pieter de Hoogh, Johannes Vermeer and especially his Haarlem predecessor, Frans Hals. Sometimes these are copies, either on canvas or paper. Hendriks would also often take details of paintings by his seventeenth-century precursors as a starting point. His greatest feat on this front is his Milkmaid, which is referred to as an ‘emulation’ of Johannes Vermeer’s original work. Emulation includes the idea that one artist tries to outdo the other, for example by attempting to improve on the original’s use of colour, composition or representation of materials.
At the end of 2023 Teylers Museum in Haarlem will hold an exhibition about the life and work of Wybrand Hendriks. Art historians and curators connected with Teylers Museum have been conducting research for this. The RKD undertook to include the new research in the RKDimages database. It was RKD intern Berber Kommerij who was given the task of adding to the database works of art which had either been brought to light by Teylers Museum, or for which new information had become available.
With 243 works of art, Hendriks is now well represented. These are not just paintings; more than half of the objects added are drawings. Works by Wybrand Hendriks can be seen in the permanent display at Teylers Museum. Furthermore you can now visit the newly restored Pieter Teylers House. The building has been returned to the eighteenth-century style, so that it is almost as if Hendriks is still living there today. Discover the oeuvre of Wybrand Hendriks in RKDimages.
Berber Kommerij was an intern at the RKD from November 2021 until March 2022 under the supervision of Eva Geudeker. Berber is studying Art History (BA) at the University of Leiden.