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Former RKD curator Martha op de Coul has died

The RKD recently received the sad news that, after years of declining health, its former curator of nineteenth-century art, Martha Op de Coul, died in the middle of December 2017. Before her retirement in 2004, Martha had worked at the RKD for over 40 years in a number of different posts.


She joined the RKD in February 1963 as assistant to Annet Tellegen-Hoogendoorn (1912-2015). In collaboration with an editorial board led by former RKD director Professor Jan van Gelder, they prepared the fully revised edition of Jacob Baart de la Faille’s The works of Vincent van Gogh: his paintings and drawings. It was published in 1970 and replaced the first edition of 1929, which was seriously out of date. Her participation in this project resulted in a lifelong interest in the artist’s work.

As research assistant and subsequently curator, Martha, together with her colleague Willem van Rappard, steadily expanded and improved the presentation of the (visual) documentation of what is now called ‘the long nineteenth century’. Through the years, she also received thousands of visitors and helped numerous art-historical detectives with their research. Martha produced several important articles, including In search of Van Gogh’s Nuenen studio: the Oldenzeel exhibitions of 1903 (Van Gogh Museum Journal 2002, pp. 104-19) and made a huge contribution to the documentary information about Van Gogh. Her work continues to be important to our knowledge of and research into the famous artist today. In Martha the art-historical field has lost a passionate, modest and remarkable colleague.