RKD Netherland Institute for art History
After finishing the HBS for girls, Rotterdam-born Jo Zwartendijk attended a three-year course on the history of painting at the École du Louvre in Paris. In her time, it was quite exceptional for a Dutch woman to study art history abroad. And with success, she passed her exam in 1913. From 1916, Zwartendijk worked as an assistant at Museum Boijmans in Rotterdam, where she was succeeded by Dirk Hannema in 1920. She then went to work for the NRC, where she worked as an art reporter from 1920 to 1938. All those years, she wrote reviews of the latest exhibitions and art-historical publications for the art section. She was also a board member of the Rotterdamse Kunstkring and an advisor to the Nederlands Kunstverbond from 1914 onwards. After her death in 1938, the bronze sculpture Karyatide by Auguste Rodin was presented to the board of the Museum Boijmans in her memory. The sculpture remains in the museum's collection to this day.
Jo Zwartendijk was among the limited group of women working in the Dutch art world of the early 20th century. Not only did she enjoy a remarkable foreign art education, she was also one of the first women art historians to be part of important art-historical organisations such as the Boijmans. Moreover, her reviews in the NRC played a significant role in popularising visual art for a wide audience. Zwartendijk is therefore seen as one of the most important women in the twentieth-century field of art criticism, which was emphasised, for instance, by Yvette Marcus-de Groot in her 2003 book Kunsthistorische vrouwen van weleer. De eerste generatie in Nederland voor 1921. In her own time, Zwartendijk was also concerned with the position of women. She was a teacher and member of the Soroptimist, an association created to improve the rights, position and lives of girls and women on an international scale.
The RKD acquired Jo Zwartendijk's archive in 2022, courtesy of her niece B.J. Zwartendijk, her son Joost Govers and the Stadsarchief Rotterdam. The archive measures half a metre and includes honorary certificates, photographs, travel reports, manuscripts of published and unpublished texts, work relations at Museum Boijmans, documents relating to her training at the École du Louvre and inventories of the Louvre's collections. The archive is currently undergoing further review and inventory. For the RKD, the archive of this exceptional art historian is a most valuable addition to that of her many male colleagues.