Suzanne Laemers receives PhD for research on Max J. Friedländer

On Thursday 17 November Suzanne Laemers, curator of Early Netherlandish Painting, will be publicly defending her PhD thesis titled Max J. Friedländer 1867–1958. Kunst en kennerschap, een leven gewijd aan de vroege Nederlandse schilderkunst (Max J. Friedländer 1867–1958: art and connoisseurship, a life devoted to early Netherlandish painting) at the University of Utrecht. Her thesis is mainly based on the extensive Max Jacob Friedländer archive which is held at the RKD.

At the beginning of the last century, Max Friedländer (Berlin 1867 – Amsterdam 1958) became one of the leading experts on early Netherlandish painting. His numerous publications in this field and on connoisseurship as a valuable tool to distinguish between different artistic hands have provided a vital contribution to art-historical research. Friedländer was appointed research assistant at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin in 1896. He went on to become Deputy Director of the Kupferstichkabinett in 1908 and subsequently Director of the Gemäldegalerie. Through his role as museum director and his extensive knowledge of Dutch and Flemish painters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the inspiring manner in which he communicated this knowledge to his readers, Friedländer eventually earned a reputation as a universally respected art historian. His brilliant career was cruelly cut short when the Nazis came to power in 1933.

In her thesis, Suzanne Laemers uses a number of case studies to shed light on the art historian Max Friedländer, his relationship with his director Wilhelm Bode ( ‘Generaldirektor’ of the Berlin museums from 1905), his outspoken ideas with regard to connoisseurship, his role in a number of major art-historical disputes and his relationship with various colleagues including Professor Georges Hulin de Loo at the University of Ghent and Hans Schneider, the first director of the RKD. It was with the latter’s help that Friedländer managed to emigrate to the Netherlands in 1939.