The arrival of Ludwig Burchard’s archive and library in Antwerp in 1963 can be considered to mark the birth of the Rubenianum as an independent research center on Peter Paul Rubens. For the scholarly community this meant that the documentation of a man could be accessed who had had deep knowledge and understanding of the versatility and stylistic changes in Rubens. Burchard’s meticulously collected material and photographs still is a milestone for the Rubensforschung. This book is the result of an international study day held at the Rubenianum on December 6, 2013, to celebrate its 50thanniversary.
The volume aims to provide a portrait of Burchard ‘in art-historiographical perspective’ – thus the subtitle – who became the international authority on Rubens of his day. As the work at the Rubenianum shows, Burchard still has considerable influence on the scholarly output on the artist long after his passing. Of the ten contributions the first five and the epilogue are more biographical, the other four are broader views on the scholar via the lives of colleagues and friends, especially contextualizing the war years, his connoisseurship and photo material.
After the foreword by Veronique van de Kerckhof, Director of the Rubenianum, the book opens with “Dr. Ludwig Burchard (1886–1960) and his role in the study of Rubens and Seventeenth-Century Flemish Art” (including bibliography) by the late Frans Baudouin in the first English translation since its publication in 1987. It may be of use to summarize it here:
With his dissertation written under Adolph Goldschmidt on Dutch etchers of the pre-Rembrandt era, the German art historian Ludwig Burchard (1886-1960) had concentrated on Netherlandish art from the start. After internships at the Dresden and Berlin print rooms and the attention of Wilhelm von Bode, he certainly would have succeeded in the museum world had it not been for World War I which interrupted his budding museum career. Following brief spells of employment as editor for Thieme–Becker’s Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon and the Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst Burchard continued as private scholar. In 1921 he saw Rudolf Oldenbourg’s volume on Rubens for the Klassiker der Kunst series to its conclusion. Shortly thereafter Gustav Glück, Director of the Gemäldegalerie, Vienna, approached him to assist on the publication of Rubens’s catalogue raisonné. Burchard set to work and became a diligent gatherer of information, source material, photographs and personal notes on the artist. The Rubens catalogue would become his life’s work, unfortunately never completed by him.
Scholars and collectors alike began noticing Burchard’s growing expertise on Rubens, his assistants, pupils and collaborators, among them the wealthy collector Antoine Count Seilern who supported Burchard’s work financially. Late in 1938 Elsevier publishers in Amsterdam issued a leaflet for The Work of Peter Paul Rubens in six volumes, showing Burchard’s optimism about his achieved progress. But before then Hitler’s rise to power and the introduction of the discriminatory laws against non-Aryans (Burchard’s mother was Jewish) led to Burchard’s and his wife’s move to London in 1935 where he continued to work on the Rubens catalogue, still supported by Count Seilern.
After the war Burchard possibly sensed that his project might never come to fruition in the way he envisioned. Paintings had vanished or were destroyed; others re-surfaced; other authors published documents he had been searching for; ownerships had changed. His preparatory work seemed partly obsolete it was difficult to track the changes. Still, his expertise was even more sought after in the post-war years. He collected more material and photographs and was busy with appraisals for auction houses, museums and collectors. His curatorial advice and collaboration for exhibitions on Rubens was often requested and led to the successful exhibitions at the Wildenstein Galleries in 1950 and 1951, the London Royal Academy in 1952 and the important Rubens’s drawings exhibition at the Rubenshuis in 1956. This ultimately resulted in the two-volume catalogue of Rubens’s drawings compiled and completed by Roger d’Hulst, published in 1963, three years after Burchard’s death.
When Burchard died in London in 1960 his ties with Antwerp were stronger than ever. It seemed a natural decision to bring his archive and library to the city of Rubens. Burchard’s family was happy to present the archive to Antwerp under the conditions that the catalogue raisonné would be finished using his material and consider his opinion, and that the volumes should appear under his name, henceforth known as the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard.
Hans Vlieghe’s contribution “Ludwig Burchard and Rubensforschung”considers the art-historiographical background of Burchard’s research as well as the influences on him, most importantly his teacher Adolph Goldschmidt who had supported a more critical and source based art-historical approach.
The personal account of Anne Olivier Bell, daughter of Arthur E. Popham, keeper of prints and drawings at the British Museum, who worked for Burchard during the war, adds a moving personal touch to the scholar’s portrait.
Prisca Valkeneers’s contribution, too, focuses on the war years. She vividly describes Burchard’s circumstances as an exiled German in London, which reflected those of many other Jewish scholars who had fled Germany and who were especially close to Burchard, such as Johannes Wilde, Kurt Badt, Fritz Grossmann and Gustav Glück.
Christopher White concentrates on the successful Rubens exhibition at Wildenstein’s, London, in 1950. He rightly points out that at the time Burchard alone had the insight into and understanding of British and foreign collections to be able to bring together a show of such caliber without loans from the large European museums: 32 of 56 exhibits came from private collections. Choosing nine items from the exhibition White demonstrates the relevance of Burchard’s research for the current discussion of authorship.
For those unfamiliar with the actual contents of the archive, Lieneke Nijkamp gives details on Burchard’s material legacy. The library presented to the Rubenianum held ca. 9000 volumes. These included Burchard’s rare books as well as the modern art books that went to the Museum Middelheim in 1965. Of the 488 documentation boxes Burchard kept in his house in Hampstead, 271 were solely devoted to Rubens. The remaining 211 contained files on the different schools or art. Burchard’s correspondence, notebooks and diaries complete his archive. His art collection included works by Rubens and Van Dyck, but also some French Impressionists like Corot and Renoir.
With his brief history of the catalogue raisonné Koen Bulckens touches on a worthwhile subject. He illustrates the role of the Corpus, which saw two important precedents in the catalogues of the graphic works of Rembrandt and, especially, that of Raphael by Johann David Passavant. Both Max Rooses and Burchard looked to the latter for its research and treatment of primary sources as well as to John Smith’s eight-volume work on Dutch, Flemish and French Painters (1829-1837) for organization and comprehensiveness.
Suzanne Laemers writes about “Good Old Max” – Max J. Friedländer – about whom she has published extensively in recent years. Next to Aby Warburg and Burchard, just to name two, Friedländer was one of the first art historians to recognize photography as a valuable research tool. Over the course of his life he brought together more than 20,000 photographs and reproductions of German, French and Netherlandish paintings of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, one of the great resources of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD). Friedländer was, of course, well aware of the ambiguous character of the medium. In his book On Art and Connoisseurship, he warned of the dangers of neglecting the original and applying style criticism through the filter of photography.
Since 1985 the Rubenianum houses the Bruegel archive of Fritz Grossmann (1902-1984). Hired after his emigration from Vienna to London as a researcher for Burchard he became, independently of the Rubens work, an expert on Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Hilde Cuvelier offers an overview of Grossmann’s life with attention to his work in adult education, his expertise on Bruegel and the organization of the Bruegel archive. She recounts the well-known Schlosser-Strzygowski dispute in Vienna where Grossmann had been a student that led to the creation of two separate chairs in art history (Erstes und zweites Institut für Kunstgeschichte). This is a fitting contribution in a volume contextualizing the art-historiographical aspects of Burchard’s time.
The volume ends with a charming and warm epilogue by Bert Watteeuw about the human being behind the scholar and collector Ludwig Burchard.
Catalogues raisonnés have increasingly come out of fashion although a recent conference on the subject (Greifswald, September 17-19, 2015) shows renewed interest in its status and history. With the first CRLB volume appearing in the late 1960s the amount of information and reproductions was an important advancement in the field. This standard has been maintained and improved over the years. In 2015 the aim naturally is to bring the series to an end. Ludwig Burchard’s expertise still impresses. His material is not only worthy of this large series but he, the Corpus and its authors will all hold a place in the history of the catalogue raisonné.