CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

RKD Presents “Houbraken Translated”

The new RKD Study Houbraken Translated is a complete, fully illustrated and augmented edition in English of the celebrated De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (The Great Theater of Netherlandish Painters and Paintresses) of 1718 to 1721, in which Arnold Houbraken wrote about the lives of 1190 artists. Thanks to this online publication Houbraken’s ideas and beliefs are for the first time also publicly accessible to non-Dutch speakers.

Artist biographies

A properly trained painter and engraver himself, the artists’ biographer Arnold Houbraken (1660-1719) was a regular visitor to important collectors and dealers. He had an extensive network and was extremely well informed. His mission was to achieve eternal fame for Dutch painters by means of his three-volume work. Houbraken is the first and most important source for many famous seventeenth-century painters from the Netherlands, and moreover his De groote schouburgh also provides a great deal of information about the people they knew as well as other historical details. Houbraken intersperses his biographical tales with his thoughts on art theory, studio practice, history (including ancient history), literature, philosophy and religion.

Jacob Houbraken (1698-1780), Portrait of Arnold Houbraken, 1718 Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Version in English

The art historian Hein Horn has spent the past years working on his translation of Houbraken’s artist biographies. He obtained his doctorate at the University of Yale and went on to translate various books and catalogues. Alongside the English translation, readers of Houbraken Translated can consult Houbraken’s original text. The copy from the RKD’s rare books collection that has been scanned comes from the library of Frits Lugt.  

More than a translation

RKD Studies is a vehicle for publishing research into Dutch art in an international context, which is either carried out by or in collaboration with the RKD ‚Äď Netherlands Institute for Art History. The substantial Houbraken project has been organized by Rieke van Leeuwen, Curator for old masters at the RKD. She has done research into the information used by Houbraken and has entered much related detail into the RKD database. The RKD Study has been provided with hyperlinks that take you to the records in RKD artists for all artists‚Äô names, as well as for about 270 collectors and patrons, some of whom have been identified here for the first time. Furthermore over 500 works of art mentioned by Houbraken have been illustrated in the RKD Study as well as being linked to RKD images, where more documentation has been given. This combination of features makes Houbraken Translated a very complete, rich and important source for art-historical researchers.