In loving memory of Ger Luijten

The Fondation Custodia and its staff are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Ger Luijten on 19 December 2022. He had been our director since 2010.

Ger’s unexpected death brings a premature end to twelve years of intense work, the results of which have won widespread praise. With his taste, his connoisseur’s eye, and his boundless interest in the visual arts, he managed to perpetuate and even broaden the reputation of the Paris-based institution founded by Frits Lugt and his wife in 1947. He surprised from the start with a brilliant series of exhibitions in rapid succession, and with his active acquisition policy, often along less trodden paths. Always mindful of what he considered Lugt’s original mission, “to serve art history”, he found new ways of bringing the somewhat highbrow institution, renowned for its old master drawings, prints and artists’ letters, to the attention of a wider public, convincing any audience by his personal involvement and his gift for the spoken and written word.

Ger Luijten, born in 1956, began his training as a drawing teacher in Breda in 1977. At the age of 23, he decided to study art history in Utrecht, where his education served him wonderfully for the technical aspects of the graphic arts which, from the very beginning, were his primary interest. In 1987, he was appointed assistant curator of prints and drawings at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, where he also wrote his first exhibition catalogue, From Pisanello to Cézanne. In 1990, he took up a position as curator of prints at the Rijksprentenkabinet in Amsterdam, which he would lead from 2001. His most important projects included the major exhibitions Dawn of the Golden Age. Northern Netherlandish Art, 1580-1620 (1993-1994), on which he worked intensively, and the highly original Mirror of Everyday Life: Genre Prints in the Netherlands, 1550-1700, conceived and written together with Eddy de Jongh (1997). The Rijksmuseum’s years of closure for the renovation of 2003-2012, and the wish to give his career a new twist brought Ger Luijten to the Fondation Custodia, where he succeeded Mària van Berge-Gerbaud at her retirement from the 1st of June, 2010.

Even before starting in Rotterdam, Ger was involved as author, later as editor, in the authoritative Hollstein series, the standard work for Dutch and Flemish printmaking up to 1700. He served on the supervisory boards of the RKD in The Hague and of the Vereniging Rembrandt, and on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals, notably, for thirty-six years, Simiolus. Netherlands quarterly for the history of art. Always with his characteristic enthusiasm, he devoted himself exhaustively to his various missions.

One of his most remarkable innovations at the Fondation Custodia was the introduction of a completely new field of interest to the collection: the oil sketch, painted directly from nature, as practised by landscape artists from the late eighteenth century onwards. In twelve years, he managed to bring together a representative overview of the genre in more than five hundred (!) examples from different European countries, part of which was included in the recent exhibition True to Nature. Open-air Painting in Europe 1780-1870 (2020-2021, also presented at the National Gallery in Washington and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge).

His directorship was also characterised by the extensive maintenance and renovation works he launched on the two Parisian buildings that house the Fondation. In the nineteenth-century building facing the street, a brand-new, spacious library was created as well as a bookshop and ticket office, and the exhibition spaces were thoroughly renovated. In the eighteenth-century Hôtel Turgot behind, the spaces for the conservation of the collections were adapted to up-to-date requirements, and the different rooms were remodelled, lit and decorated in order to create the perfect screen for the works of art on display, each with its particular colours and atmosphere.

Ger Luijten loved sharing his knowledge and passion, especially through an exhibition programme that allowed the public to discover little-known aspects of art history. Some projects were particularly close to his heart, such as Hieronymus Cock. The Renaissance in Print (2013), Drawings for Paintings in the Age of Rembrandt (2016), Le Musée Pouchkine. Cinq cents ans de dessins de maîtres (2019), or the already mentioned True to Nature. He also enjoyed bringing (too) often overlooked artists to the fore: Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg in 2016, Georges Michel in 2018, Willem Bastiaan Tholen in 2019 and finally Léon Bonvin in 2022. His deep commitment to contemporary graphic arts revealed artists such as Peter Vos, Arie Schippers, Gèr Boosten, Jozef Van Ruyssevelt, Marian Plug, Gérard de Palézieux, Siemen Dijkstra, Anna Metz and Charles Donker to the Parisian public through highly appreciated monographic exhibitions.

With his charisma, his humour, his warmth and his generosity, Ger Luijten leaves behind an orphaned team, but he has forever left his mark on the Fondation Custodia.

Fondation Custodia/Collection Frits Lugt
121, rue de Lille – 75007 Paris

Press contact:
Gaëlle de Bernède – T. +33 (0)1 75 43 46 80

photo © Daria Scagliola