Women collectors in art 1780-1980

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With increasing attention to the contributions of women artists, our perception of art history is becoming more diverse and nuanced. As of yet, little research has been done on women collectors; thanks in part to this project, that will change.


The RKD is examining the underexposed role of women collectors in the Netherlands in the period 1780-1980. The results of the research will be presented in a digital publication in the RKD Studies series, to be published in autumn 2025.

Women collectors in art 1780-1980

Research on female artists of the nineteenth century has shown that compared to their predecessors, these women were given more opportunities to participate in the art world. Art education was being made available to them, they could join artists' societies, exhibit and sell their work. These changes also affected activities of other women within the art world, such as those of collectors. Female collectors were definitely out there, but nevertheless ended up on the margins of art history. An important reason for this is that when donations were made to museums, it was not their names that were recorded in museum registration systems, but those of their husbands. Moreover, their financial actions – such as purchases of works of art – are very difficult to trace because until 1956 women were not considered legally competent to act. To gain new insights and adjust the picture, it is necessary to study contemporary sources with fresh and critical eyes.

Currently, there is a global trend to further explore the role of women in the art world, looking beyond female artists alone. In the Netherlands, this is echoed within the research project The other half. Women’s participation in the Dutch art world, a joint initiative by the RKD, Rijksmuseum, University of Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.


The project started October 2023. Project leader is RKD-curator Evelien de Visser. A junior researcher will carry out part of the research from the 1st of February 2024 and write a number of lemmas for the publication.

Catalogusontwerp door Nelly Bodenheim
Nelly Bodenheim, Frontispiece for the catalogue for the exhibition 'Woman 1813-1913' in Amsterdam, 1913


The RKD is generously supported in realising this project by the Cultuurfonds, Vereniging Rembrandt from its Kroese-Duijsters fund and the Wilhelmina Drucker Foundation.


The RKD is the place to carry out this research. First, an inventory will be made on the basis of the RKD's rich and diverse collection, such as (annotated) auction catalogues, visual documentation and archival materials. The collectors whose collections have not been preserved in museums are also included, whereas they are normally excluded from object-oriented research by museums. These women collectors deserve equal attention, because they too are part of the context in which collectors moved about.

The results of the inventory will already be shared during the research through the databases of RKD Research. Biographical information about the collectors is entered in RKDartists. Reconstructions of collections can be made in the artworks database RKDimages. Interconnections between these databases bring to light new discoveries, such as artists who also collected. The results of the research will be presented in a digital publication in the RKD Studies series, to be published in autumn 2025.