RKD Study dedicated to Cornelis Kruseman

Graflegging van Christus geschilderd door kunstenaar Cornelis Kruseman

On 25 June, the RKD Study Cornelis Kruseman (1797-1857): Aardse roem en hemelse ambitie (Earthly fame and heavenly ambition) was published. This digital publication provides an overview of Kruseman's life and his oeuvre of over three hundred paintings. The ambitious nature of this passionate artist is striking. 

Ambition as a history painter

At a young age, Cornelis Kruseman was already an esteemed painter of portraits and genre scenes. But his ambition goes further, he wants to become a history painter. In 1821, he travelled at his own expense to Rome, where he stayed for more than three years. There he mastered the more international neoclassical style of painting, which would characterise his entire oeuvre. Kruseman was the first Dutch artist to introduce Italian folk life as a subject in Dutch painting. With this, by Dutch standards, unusual painting style and choice of subjects, he distinguished himself on the art market in the Netherlands. 

Zelfportet van kunstenaar Cornelis Kruseman begin negentiende eeuw
Cornelis Kruseman, Self-portrait, 1821, 72.2 x 57.2 cm, Museum van Loon, Amsterdam

Artist with first Dutch solo exhibition

Kruseman's success certainly did not come automatically: he had to work on his own promotion since in the early nineteenth century there were no art dealers to do so yet. Thus, he was the first Dutch artist to organise solo exhibitions of his most recent work. Another important promotional feat is Kruseman's publication in 1826 of his Italian travel journal under the title Aanteekeningen van C. Kruseman, betrekkingelijk deszelfs kunstreis en verblijf in Italië. Kruseman's hard work was rewarded. He became one of the best-paid artists of his time and received several lucrative commissions to paint monumental history pieces, even from King William I and King William II.

Research on a passionate artist

Eva Geudeker, Curator of Fine Arts 1700-1900 at the RKD, conducted extensive research on Kruseman in archives in the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy. Together with her findings among descendants of the Kruseman Family Archives and the many letters written by Kruseman, she got a good picture of his ideas, views and clientele. Geudeker also traced about two-thirds of Kruseman's oeuvre consisting of over three hundred paintings. More than two hundred of these are portraits, several dozen are genre pieces and, finally, there are over thirty history paintings. This enables a new analysis of Kruseman's stylistic development and his painterly ideals. 

De graflegging van Christus geschilderd door Cornels Kruseman. Voorbeeld van een mooi historiestuk
Cornelis Kruseman, Lamentation of Christ, 1830, 330 x 290 cm, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

RKD Study

The result of Geudeker's research is now accessible to everyone in the latest RKD Study (only in Dutch). This online publication contains the oeuvre catalogue of Kruseman's paintings, preceded by eight introductory chapters. Including an overview of Kruseman's life, it provides context for the genesis of his oeuvre. Eva Geudeker's research was made possible thanks to the support of the Cornelis Kruseman - J.M.C. Ising Foundation, the Haverkorn van Rijsewijk Foundation and the Gifted Art Foundation.