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Frits Lugt: A Life Devoted to Art

Published on , by Laurence Mouillefarine

Dutch art historian and collector Frits Lugt died fifty years ago. The Fondation Custodia he created in Paris houses one of the most extensive collections of drawings, prints and artist's letters in private hands. An institution that is more active than ever.

Frits Lugt and Jacoba Klever newly married, December 1910. Frits Lugt: A Life Devoted to Art

Frits Lugt and Jacoba Klever newly married, December 1910.

On July 15, 1970, by a sad stroke of fate, Frits Lugt had a heart attack and collapsed in Place de la Concorde, Paris. It was Rembrandt's birthday: a painter this Dutchman adored. The young Frits caught the collector's bug very early on. While most children collect key rings, beans or marbles, Lugt Junior showed admirable singularity from the age of 8, proudly hanging a sign on his bedroom door that said "The museum is open if the director is at home."  Promising! The boy listed all his treasures in a tiny notebook, where each trophy was described and numbered: a stone from the Saint-Merri cloister, seashells, a ball, a souvenir of the Battle of Waterloo. Already, we see a powerful drive to classify and list. He was 14 in 1898 when he visited the Rembrandt exhibition staged at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to celebrate Queen Wilhelmine's coronation. He was blown away! Eager to see the master's drawings and etchings over and over again, the boy haunted the Rijksmuseum every Wednesday and Saturday. A year later, he wrote a biography of Rembrandt, skillfully sketching the illustrations himself.   Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687), Vue panoramique du Waal à Zaltbommel , 1669, pen and brown ink, watercolor, 20.8…
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