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Jacques Goudstikker
1897 - 1940

Jacques Goudstikker inspecting a painting, in this exhibition about the restitution of Nazi looted art

Jacques Goudstikker
Photo courtesy of Marei von Saher

By all accounts, Jacques Goudstikker was a larger-than-life figure who helped shape the taste of his age. A born salesman and entrepreneur, he operated a grand gallery in a seventeenth-century mansion on one of Amsterdam's prominent canals and entertained with panache at his home on the Amstel River and at his country estate, Nyenrode Castle on the Vecht River.

Born into a family of art dealers, Goudstikker was educated at the Commercial School before enrolling in art history courses at Leiden University. He also studied in Utrecht where he was introduced to a wider field of study and a more aesthetic assessment of art. Following in the steps of his grandfather and father, Goudstikker officially entered the family business in 1919, at the age of 22 and almost immediately introduced distinctive changes.

Goudstikker contributed to raising Amsterdam's profile as an international center for the art trade and strove to develop international collectors and foster Dutch appreciation of foreign art. He expanded the gallery's holdings and exhibitions to include not only Northern Baroque art, his specialty, but also early Northern paintings, Italian Renaissance works and later European paintings. His scholarly and elegant catalogues attest to increasingly varied international offerings and a greater ambition for the gallery and its publications.

Goudstikker developed the innovative idea of presenting thematic exhibitions such as the first survey of Dutch winter landscape paintings, and also mounted monographic exhibitions on Peter Paul Reubens and Solomon van Ruysdael. In addition he chose works for an important exhibition of Italian art at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Christian themes are prevalent in Italian Renaissance work and Goudstikker was one of many well-known Jewish art dealers and scholars whose connoisseurship encompassed such works.

In 1937, at one of his charity banquets, entitled "Vienna on the Vecht," he hosted the accomplished and beautiful Viennese opera singer Désirée von Halban Kurz. Goudstikker was smitten with Dési, the daughter of the famed Jewish coloratura soprano Selma Kurz, and the two soon married and had a son.

With a Nazi invasion of the Netherlands appearing inevitable in late 1939, Jacques Goudstikker applied for and was granted immigration visas to the United States for himself, his wife Dési, and their year-old son Eduard (nicknamed "Edo"). He had made some preliminary provisions for escape, sending a few pictures to England, transferring a relatively small amount of money to New York, and appointing a representative to handle his affairs in the event he was forced to flee.

The Goudstikkers' visas expired on May 9, 1940, and the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands on the next day prevented Goudstikker from going to the U.S. consulate to obtain renewals. As German forces approached Amsterdam on May 13, the Goudstikkers gathered up a few assets and set off. Even with expired visas, they managed to find passage on the SS Bodegraven, the last cargo boat to England, in part because a soldier on guard at the port remembered seeing Dési sing for the troops. Without proper papers, however, they were not permitted to disembark once they arrived in Dover and were forced to continue on to Liverpool along with hundreds of other refugees.

While crossing the English Channel on the night of May 15, Goudstikker left the cargo ship's cramped hold and went up on deck for air. In the blackness he fell through an uncovered hatch and was killed. Devastated, Dési was allowed ashore only long enough to make hasty arrangements for her husband's burial in Falmouth, England. Dési and Edo traveled on to Canada before eventually settling in the United States.

Desiree von Halban Kurz, c. 1931

R. Knirr
Portrait of Désirée von Halban Kurz (1912-1996),
c. 1931
Oil on canvas
16 1/2 x 13 1/2 in. (41.9 x 34.3 cm)
Marei von Saher, the heir of Jacques Goudstikker

Jacques Goudstikker

Martin Monnickendam (Dutch, 1874-1943)
Portrait of Jacques Goudstikker (1897-1940),
Oil on canvas
27 x 23 in. (68.6 x 58.4 cm)
Marei von Saher, the heir of Jacques Goudstikker

Goudstikker exhibition: Jan van der Heyden

Jan van der Heyden
View of Nyenrode Castle on the Vecht, late 17th-early 18th century
Oil on panel
18 1/2 x 23 1/4 in. (47 x 59 cm)
Marei von Saher, the heir of Jacques Goudstikker