Archive of correspondence by Sanne Bruinier

Portret van Sanne Bruinier

Early this year the RKD received a suitcase full of letters by the artist Sanne Bruinier (1875-1953). Until recently no one knew of the existence of these letters. They were discovered in the home of a descendant of Sanne Bruinier’s only sister. 

Woman artist on the move

Born in The Hague, Sanne Bruinier spent much of her life abroad. From 1899 to 1901 she stayed in Paris which was then regarded as the centre of the artistic world, a city where it was easy for women to enrol in one of the many private art academies. The correspondence shows that during this time she met a number of artists including Paula Modersohn-Becker and Kees van Dongen. Bruinier drew and painted, mainly portraits of children and landscapes. Unfortunately much of her work was destroyed in a series of fires. After a period in Paris she continued living abroad and moved to Poland, where she joined the German section of the Theosophical Society. Here she was introduced to anthroposophy and she met Rudolf Steiner. This explains why Sanne Bruinier’s diaries are now in the library of The Hague’s Anthroposophical Society.

Portret van Sanne Bruinier
Bertha van Hasselt, Portrait of Sanne Bruinier, 1927, collection Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam


For her undergraduate degree in art history at Leuven Catholic University, Klara Laboux did research on Sanne Bruinier’s Paris period. She and her supervisor discovered a suitcase full of unknown letters by the artist that had been sitting in the home of a descendant of Sanne’s only sister. The find of this new source came too late to be included in Laboux’s bachelor thesis, but she is now doing a Masters and is focusing her research on the newly discovered correspondence. Laboux was able to be the first to study all of the letters from the period around 1900. The suitcase containing the correspondence has recently been transferred to the RKD.

Koffer vol correspondentie van kunstenares Sanne Bruinier
The suitcase with letters from Sanne Bruinier, collection RKD

Hundreds of unpublished letters

The archive contains hundreds of unpublished letters from a correspondence which Sanne Bruinier maintained diligently. The correspondence not only gives a picture of her artistic network but it also provides detailed insights into her personality. Klara Laboux is currently working on the letters from the artist’s Paris period, which portray the way of life of young women artists trying to make their way in the city as well as develop their talents. The archive will be fully catalogued at the RKD and made available to other researchers.