Gerson Digital : Britain


Preface – Karen Hearn and Rieke van Leeuwen

We are pleased to present here Gerson Digital : Britain in the digital format of RKDStudies. This is the 6th volume in the Gerson Digital series, which currently comprises the fully illustrated and annotated chapters, in English translation, of Horst Gerson’s Ausbreitung und Nachwirkung der holländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts, which was first published in 1942. Previous digital publications in the series have focused on Poland, Denmark, Germany, the Archduchy of Austria, Bohemia and Italy.

While Gerson’s original title for this section was ‘England’, we have altered that to ‘Britain’, since his text also includes references to Dutch and Flemish painters who worked in Scotland.

This new scholarly edition of Gerson’s chapter on Britain was prepared by the RKD with the assistance of the trainees Petra Jalšovec (Utrecht University), Alexander Sevastos (Utrecht University) and Annika Zinger (University of Göttingen), and the volunteers and associated researchers Ellinoor Bergvelt, Ursula de Goede, Paul van Kooij and Jan Kosten. Researched during the pandemic, with all the limitations that that imposed, the updated text at present covers the first two sections of Gerson’s text. The remaining sections will be uploaded in 2023.

For this Gerson Digital : Britain project, the team has reviewed and updated the biographical data on all artists, art dealers and collectors mentioned in the text, drawing on the extensive scholarly work that has appeared in print since 1942. Most of the relevant records already present in the RKDartists database have been updated, and new ones have been added for less well-known individuals. Altogether, information has been gathered here on more than 1,300 artists, art dealers and collectors. As part of the project, all the works of art mentioned in Gerson’s chapter on England/Britain have been made visually accessible through RKDimages; we have also included references to additional works that we regard as relevant to the understanding of Gerson’s text. As a result, the information provided in the new or updated records reflects the current state of scholarship on the digitized works. In the RKDimages database there are now more than 2,800 paintings, drawings and prints that relate to the British project.


This project has, of course, meant looking at Gerson’s Ausbreitung und Nachwirkung der Holländische Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts with present-day eyes. The number of footnotes has greatly increased. Gerson’s original ones, which are here labeled ‘[Gerson 1942/1983]’, have been supplemented with many further updating notes; these are signalled by the phrase ‘[Hearn/van Leeuwen 2022]’. Every page of the text is dense with references to individual artists.

Unsurprisingly, more recent scholarly findings do not always support Gerson’s thoughts. The new footnotes largely reference contributions that have been published more recently. The sources include both comprehensive studies of the periods in question, and specialist research on individual artists and artworks (and further titles are often listed separately in the RKDartists and RKDimages records). Many new Anglophone publications have been added. All bibliographical references in the footnotes are given in abbreviated form. These abbreviations refer to the Bibliography for Gerson’s chapter on Britain, which testifies to the range of the literature produced on the subject both before and after 1942.

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