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Summary in English

The studio is a mysterious place. It is the site where paint, brushstrokes and canvases are somehow transformed into art. For many, the artist is a solitary genius whose studio is a creative laboratory. This magical space is surrounded by myths. Studio myths unravels and presents these mysteries by means of an exhibition, a publication and an online database.

In 2002 the RKD began research into nineteenth-century studios and painting practice in the Netherlands. Since then, it has been gathering and studying documents created for self-promotion, letters, travel reports, artists’ memoirs, articles in journals, paintings, drawings and photographs from its own collections as well as other sources. This information has been collected in a special database called RKDstudio; the visual material has been entered into RKDimages.

The RKDstudio database contains quotations from various art-historical sources about nineteenth-century studio practice. The terms ‘studio practice’ and ‘painting practice’ have been used in a broad sense, allowing researchers to include references to exhibition practice, the art trade, training of artists and artists’ societies.
The majority of these quotations have been extracted from over 7000 letters stored in various artists’ archives and letter collections. As well as the collections of the RKD, researchers went through the nineteenth-century holdings of the Rijksmuseum and The Hague Municipal Archive. In addition to letters, RKDstudio also includes references to contemporary painting practice taken from other sources such as diaries and articles published in journals and newspapers.

Users can search for quotations in the RKDstudio database by artist, author or keyword. To ensure that specific quotations can be retrieved as swiftly as possible, there is also a thesaurus of subject keywords referring users to further search options. For example, if you look under ‘materials’, you will find links to further keywords such as ‘painter’s box’, ‘palette’ and ‘anatomical figure’.
All the keywords added to quotations have furthermore been given definitions that follow nineteenth-century usage as closely as possible. This has resulted in a useful dictionary of nineteenth-century studio terms.
A large amount of art-historical source material can now be accessed through RKDstudio. The database can facilitate future research into studio and painting practice, giving us a more complete picture of nineteenth-century Dutch art.

The publication
Not long after the RKD began the project, it was decided that in addition to making the sources accessible, it would be a good idea to present the results coherently in a publication entitled Mythen van het atelier. Werkplaats en atelierpraktijk van de negentiende-eeuwse Nederlandse kunstenaar (Studio Myths. Workshop and studio practice of nineteenth-century Dutch artists).
Through essays by various experts the publication provides a rich and diverse description of the studio as a work place as well as a space with social and promotional functions. The book is divided into two parts. The first looks at the social aspects of the studio and the public’s perception of the artist. It examines ideas about the artist as an individual (craftsman versus pictor doctus). This part also discusses the architecture of the studio and its interior arrangement, and how this played a role in attracting clients. The studio also served as a meeting place, where fellow artists could exchange experiences and ideas, sometimes enjoying the additional pleasures of wine or music. This part also mentions other visitors including art dealers and critics and potential buyers.

Part Two focuses on the practice of painting – the artist’s profession. Innovations such as the production of new paints and metal ferrules gripping the brush hair dramatically changed painting practice. At the same time, nineteenth-century artists were strongly influenced by theories about the art of painting and this is reflected in their work. Topics discussed include the development of painting, methods and materials, and the influence of new inventions such as gaslight and the metal paint tube. Following on from this, the authors look at studios with apprentices, the use of lay figures and models and the role of paint suppliers.

The exhibition
In 2007, Teylers Museum in Haarlem agreed to organise an exhibition focusing on the same topic. The exhibition runs in Haarlem from 18 September 2010 to 9 January 2011. In February 2011 it travels to the Valkhof Museum in Nijmegen.
The exhibition ‘Studio Myths’ unravels the origins of the myths surrounding the artist’s studio. The secrets of famous nineteenth-century studios are unveiled through the works of masters such as Breitner, Israels, Toorop, Koekkoek and Tadema. The exhibits also include a variety of historic artists’ materials. From the extraordinary interior arrangement of the studios of this period we learn that they were not only workshops, but also social centres and marketplaces. The exhibition features a reconstruction of the spectacular studio interior of the history painter Christoffel Bisschop.


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