How to Collect Museum Catalogues From the Netherlands

How to start your collection of (dutch) MUSEUM catalogues from the most important designers from last century.


– focus on the great names in dutch typography and layout. Sandberg, Crouwel, Piet Zwart, Benno Wissing and Paul Schuitema are all worldwide known for their quality.
– always look at the quality of the item offered. Pristine items are practically non existent, but mint can be found. Better to pay a few dollars extra than to collect an item which is less perfect.
– Larger museums have always been in a position to commission their best catalogues to the best designers.
– The edition size is also important and makes a publication even more wanted than when the edition is small. Please note that many Museum publications are from edition sizes between 500 and 1700 which are small already. You can expect that many of these will be destroyed in the 50 years that they were shelved and only a small number survived.
– Early catalogues for startin, but now famous artists, are sought after and deserve a premium.
– signed copies are even more collectable and sometimes they are signed and numbered from a special edition which makes them more scarce and highly collectable.

– Then there is what I call “a secret ingredient” which in many cases is not recognised by others. These great designers included in their designs sometimes original art. Silkscreens were used as covers. Sometimes a special inlay with lithography, etching or silkscreen was inserted. In the best cases these were signed which makes them outright valuable, but can in most cases be had at a fraction of the price of an original work of art. (examples are Escher, Miro, Calder and Arp for their Stedelijk Museum catalogues and other publications).

As noted before the larger museums commissioned their best catalogues to the best designers.
First you must focus in these designers who worked with the largest museums in the Netherlands.


Probably the most important and well known is Willem Sandberg. Director and designer for the Stedelijk Museum in the 50’s and early 60’s. Known for his bold use of lettering and recognisable lay out with thorn letters used as illustrations. Many of the designed Sandberg catalogues have become classics.

About 350 catalogues were designed for the Stedelijk Museum by Sandberg

Secondly there is Wim Crouwel, who was responsible for many catalogues from the sixties and seventies and later become director of the Museum Boymans van Beuningen. He designed some 300 catalogues for the Stedelijk Museum.

In Rotterdam there was also Benno Wissing who later started with Wim Crouwel Total Design. There are some similarities between Sandberg and early Wissing but both have a style of their own.

Piet Zwart and Paul Schuitema are known for their lay outs with photo collage and are highly collectable too.


The largest museum in the Netherlands are:

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, published ca. 1100 catalogues over 60 years. Designers were Sandberg, Piet Zwart and Wim Crouwel

Museum Boymans van Beuningen. Main designers were Benno Wissing and 3VO

Haags Gemeentemuseum. Published ca. 600 catalogues over 60 years. Designers were Foppe, Janssen, Lebbink ao.

Van Abbemuseum. Is the small museum with the great designers. Wim Crouwel worked for them in his early days, but do not forget Jan van Toorn who is also know for his seventies exhibition designs.

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Photography Book Review – Understanding Exposure

Understanding Exposure has been written with the digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera novice in mind who will benefit from Bryan Petersen’s easy style of prose, the simple non-technical explanations, and the wealth of associated photographs to illustrate the point. Intermediate or more experienced photographers will be able to hone their skills reading about special techniques for more difficult lighting conditions such as capturing snow or low level lighting or night scenes, and the use of polarizing and neutral density filters, multiple exposures and High Dynamic Range (HDR) shots. However, please note that the book is not particularly useful for point and shoot cameras.

In his introduction, Bryan Petersen makes note of the fact that the modern DSLR camera has so many controls and modes that even an experienced photographer can become confused. You could use the camera’s auto settings and take perfectly good photographs but you will never be able to explain how you achieved that particular result. He suggests the only way to fully understand exposure on a modern DSLR camera is to use the Manual Mode and to take control of the settings yourself, or to “fly solo”.

While he defines exposure traditionally and technically, I achieved a far greater understanding from his “Photographic Triangle” explanation of the basic concept of the interaction of aperture, shutter speed and ISO. This for me is the highlight of the book and cuts through most of the confusing technical jargon so often associated with books about photography. Additionally, His “Heart of the Triangle: The Light Meter” example of obtaining water through a kitchen faucet as it explains the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO, illustrates very simply the concept of exposure.

Not only does he provide simple explanations of terms and concepts, there are also exercises at the end of each chapter for you to help complete your understanding.

There have been three editions of this book written by Bryan Petersen: 1990, 2004 and more recently, 2010. While there have been marked advances in camera technology during the twenty years between editions, it is fair to say that the overwhelming message about the “Photographic Triangle” remains true. It is by far the simplest explanation of exposure that you will ever read and the easiest to understand. Once you embrace the concepts of the Manual Mode on your DSLR and apply Bryan’s explanation of exposure in any situation, the “light bulb” moment will happen for you and remain forever more. I do recommend though that you revisit the book from time to time because each time I heave reread his book, I have gleaned yet another kernel of knowledge from it. I consider it to be one of the best books written about this subject and I recommend to anyone seeking to understand exposure and to produce perfect photos every time.

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Changing Tastes – A Text-Book on the History of Painting by John Charles Van Dyke

A Text-Book on the History of Painting by John Charles Van Dyke was published a century ago. Today it offers the modern reader not only potted, period critiques of important artists, but also a remarkable insight into how aesthetics change from generation to generation. John Charles Van Dyke’s assessments of some work will surprise today’s reader, especially his attitudes towards some contemporary artists who received rather hostile reactions from some quarters when their work was first exhibited.

The book deals with the European tradition. It makes no excuses for this. At the time, non-European art was perhaps less well known in Western critical circles. Perhaps also, it was regarded as somehow inferior, perhaps also merely because it was not European in origin. But Van Dyke does offer us a working distinction that excludes most non-European art from his survey, that of the difference between observation and expression. Only that which aims at expression, for van Dyke at least, is worthy of the label “art”. Somehow ancient Egyptian art makes it into the oeuvre, probably because it was also represented in museums that were close at hand and accessible.

Two painters in particular illustrate the difference in treatment between van Dyke’s age and our own, El Greco and Alma-Tadema. El Greco is hardly mentioned as a figure in sixteenth century Spain, his achievements apparently being regarded as rather localised on Toledo. Thus a figure now regarded as a unique stylist and visionary hardly figures in this text. Alma-Tadema, whose academicism and detail might today offer summary and epitome of the staid Victorian England that toyed euphemistically with the erotic is also dismissed. And one of the few English painters to be raised to the peerage, Frederick Leighton, also did not impress Professor Van Dyke. Neither, it seems, did Albrecht Durer.

Central to Van Dyke’s aesthetic is a judgment as to whether the painter not only represents, interprets and expresses, but also constructs a painting. Mere reality is never enough, it seems, life requiring the skill of an editor or architect to render its experience communicable. It is interesting to reflect on how much or little we still value this aspect of aesthetics in today’s painting.

Some of Van Dyke’s observations will at least entertain. Franz Hals, we learn, lived a rather careless life. William Blake was hardly a painter at all. A Dutchman is attributed with the faint praise of being a unique painter of poultry. Matthew Maris is criticised for being a recorder of visions and dreams rather than the substantial things of earth, while Turner is dismissed as bizarre and extravagant, qualities that today might enhance rather than diminish his reputation.

But Van Dyke’s book remains an interesting, informative and rewarding read, despite its distance from contemporary thinking. He is especially strong in his summary descriptions of the different Italian schools of the late Gothic and Renaissance eras. It is more than useful to be reminded of how independent these city states were at the time and how little they managed to influence one another. A Text-Book on the History of Painting by John Charles Van Dyke remains, then, an essential read for anyone interested in the history of art. Much has changed, but then there is much that has not.

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