Ger Luijten, Director of the Fondation Custodia in Paris passed away recently at the age of 66. He was a curator, scholar, insatiable acquisitor, and mentor to many.
He began his career as a teacher of drawing but soon went on to study art history at the University of Utrecht. In 1984, he began work as a compiler for the Dutch and Flemish Hollstein volumes and eventually produced six volumes from Samuel de Swaef to Dirk Vellert. He continued as a force behind the Hollstein series as an advisor and editor for both the Dutch and Flemish and German series. He also edited numerous volumes of the New Hollstein series. In addition, he generated and edited the series Studies in Prints and Printmaking which included Nadine Orenstein, Hendrick Hondius and the business of prints in seventeenth-century Holland (1996), Jan van der Stock, Printing Images in Antwerp: the introduction of printmaking in a city, fifteenth century to 1585 (1998), Ilja Veldman, Crispijn de Passe and his progeny (1564-1670): a century of print production and Profit and Pleasure: print books by Crispijn de Passe (2001), Peter Fuhring, Ornament prints in the Rijksmuseum (2004), Erik Hinterding, Rembrandt as an etcher (2006), and Catherine Jenkins, Prints at the court of Fontainebleau, c. 1542-1547 (2017).
From Hollstein, Ger moved on to become assistant curator in the department of prints and drawings at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in 1987, where he organized from Pisanello to Cézanne: master drawings from the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam (1990). In 1990, he became curator of the Rijksprentenkabinet in the Rijksmuseum and in 2001, he became head of that department. In 2012, Ger moved to Paris to become director of the Fondation Custodia, an institution which he energized and transformed through extensive renovation and numerous acquisitions and exhibitions. He loved acquiring art for the institutions where he worked. One notable example: he focused on collecting oil sketches by artists from different European countries for the Fondation and, by the end of his life, had acquired over five hundred, some of which were featured in the exhibition True to Nature. Open-air Painting in Europe 1780-1870 (Paris, Washington DC, and Cambridge) 2020-2021. Ger served on the boards of several organizations, RKD and Vereeniging Rembrandt, and the editorial boards of Simiolus and Print Quarterly. He was also on the works on paper vetting committee at TEFAF. An inspiring mentor, he also created a two-year junior curatorship with the Rijksmuseum and the Lugt Klever Fellowship with the RKD, both for young Dutch art historians working on topics related to the Fondation’s collection.
Ger curated, co-curated, and was behind numerous exhibitions in our field including Dawn of the Golden Age: northern Netherlandish Art, 1580-1620 (Amsterdam, 1993-94), Van Dyck as Printmaker (Amsterdam and Antwerp, 1999), Rembrandt the Printmaker (Berlin, 2001), Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617), Drawings, Prints, and Paintings (Amsterdam, New York, and Toledo, 2003), and Hieronymus Cock. La Gravure à la Renaissance (Paris and Leuven, 2013). He co-authored The Mirror of Everyday Life (Amsterdam, 1997), an exhibition on Netherlandish genre prints, with his friend and former advisor Eddy de Jongh. He was the driving force behind Jan van der Waals’s exhibition and catalogue on the uses of prints in the seventeenth-century, Van kunst tot kastpapier: prenten in de Gouden Eeuw (Rotterdam, 2006). At the Rijksmuseum and at the Fondation, Ger turned his attention to living artists born in the late 1930s and 1940s and eagerly collected their work. At the Fondation, he organized exhibitions on some of these artists including Jozef van Ruyssevelt, Charles Donker, and Anna Metz. He also organized exhibitions on earlier artists who had been somewhat overlooked such as Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg and Léon Bonvin.
Ger knew how to work a room in the best sense. He talked with everyone and loved to share his latest acquisitions and projects as though the person in front of him were the first one he was sharing them with. He was a genuine and open person who delighted in connecting with the people he encountered, whether curators, scholars, and art dealers or taxi drivers and waiters. In a busy restaurant in Brooklyn one evening during the week of the IFPDA Print Fair years ago, while our small group of print curators were waiting for our table, Ger struck up a conversation with the maitre d’ who happened to be Dutch. By the end of the evening, the man was running over to us to show Ger the photos of his newly adopted baby. Such was Ger, big brother to all. He will be missed.
Drue Heinz Curator in Charge Department of Drawings and Prints
The Metropolitan Museum of Art