How have women impacted on Dutch history, and to what extent is their legacy visible in the Rijksmuseum collection? These are the overarching questions explored by the research programme and related activities of the Women of the Rijksmuseum working group. This project started in 2021 and will run until 2026.

THE AIM OF THE PROJECT

The Women of the Rijksmuseum working group was set up to conduct research from a gender-based perspective on the objects in the Rijksmuseum collection, and to unlock the associated stories for the public. The core aim is to present a more complete historical narrative with increased attention for women.

The group’s first step has been to identify and document stories of women and female makers in the museum’s permanent exhibits and broader collection. Until the initiation of this project, the collection database did not make any gender-based distinctions. This vast and wide-ranging research project involves collating details of the more than one million objects in the Rijksmuseum collection. The first public outcome of the research was Women on Paper, a display of some 70 works on paper by female artists from the Print Room collection. In parallel with the inventory process, the working group is focusing on the life stories of female subjects of artworks and the history of the Rijksmuseum as an institution – one in which female collectors, art patrons and staff members have had a greater part to play than previously acknowledged.

TWO YEARS OF ‘WOMEN OF THE RIJKSMUSEUM’

Since the setting up of the working group:

  • Some 17 works by female artists have been displayed as part of the permanent exhibition, including several in the Gallery of Honour.
  • Two researchers have been appointed to conduct the inventory and develop case studies into subjects such as the substantial number of print publishers headed by women.
  • Several exhibitions and displays have been staged, including Barbara Hepworth in the Rijksmuseum Gardens (summer 2022), Women on Paper (closed on 30 May 2023), Irma Boom: Art + Books (closed on 7 May 2023) and Modern Japanese Prints (closed on 16 April 2023) comprising work donated by Elise Wessels via Stichting Für Elise.
  • The museum has acquired work by artists including Charley Toorop, George Sand, Saar de Swart and Thérèse Schwartze, and received a painting by Suze Robertson on long-term loan.
  • Six new stops have been added to the audio tour in nine languages for works by Catharina van Hemessen and Judith Leyster, and glassware featuring portraits of Elisabeth Wolff and Agatha Deken.
  • Episodes of the Rijksmuseum podcast have focussed on flower painter Henriëtte Knip; breastfeeding in the 18th century; clothing of the Protestant reform movement; and printmaker Maria Catharina Prestel.

SYMPOSIUM

The annual Women in the Rijksmuseum symposium is devoted to the exchange of key developments and knowledge in the museum field. The next edition is scheduled for March 2024.

RELATED PUBLICATIONS

Special themed issue of The Rijksmuseum Bulletin
Special themed issue of The Rijksmuseum Bulletin , scheduled for publication in 2025, No. 1 .
Vrouwen van het Rijksmuseum , collection book, scheduled for publication in 2026.

Women of the Rijksmuseum working group

WORKING GROUP MEMBERS

The working group is chaired by Jenny Reynaerts, who since 1 March 2023 has been devoting herself full-time to the subject of women in art and history, in her role as curator at the Rijksmuseum.

Laurien van der Werff, scientific researcher for works on paper. Marion Anker, historical scientific research.

Partnerships

Partnership between the Rijksmuseum and the University of Amsterdam:

  • ‘“Wife of”: Pendant Portraits from the Rijksmuseum, 1600 – 1700’, BA working group headed by Ass. Prof. Judith Noorman, 2022
  • ‘Modern art and emancipation: Female collectors in the context of Dutch museums, 1880-1980’, working group headed by Asst Prof. Rachel Esner, 2022
  • ‘MA Arts of the Netherlands’, research internship in partnership with The Female Impact, a VIDI project headed by Ass. Prof. Judith Noorman .

Partnership between Rijksmuseum, RKD / Netherlands Institute for Art History, University of Amsterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam:

  • The Other Half project: Women in the Dutch art world 1780-1980.

Partnership between the Rijksmuseum and VU University, Amsterdam:

  • ‘Art, Market and Connoisseurship’, Arts and Cultural Sciences MA headed by Mayken Jonkman MA, Curator of 19th-Century Paintings at the Rijksmuseum from 2023 to 2024.

Thanks

The Women of the Rijksmuseum project is made possible in part by CHANEL, the Susi Zijderveld Fund, the Familie Krouwels Fund, the Machteld Vos & Willem Sijthoff Fund, the Heleen Dura van Oord Fund, the Kind Courage Monique Maarsen Fund, the Familie Staal Fund, the Karin van Leeuwen Fund, the Dreesmann-Beerkens Fund, Sofronie Foundation, the Linne & Marijn Pijnenborg Fund, the Jolanda Degen Fund, the Lara Timmerman Fund, the Antoinette Rolloos Hueber Fund, the Hendrikje Crebolder Fund, Amy Novogratz & Mike Velings, and the ‘Women of the Rijksmuseum’ Fund.