Van Gool, Johan

Date born: 1685

Place born: The Hague, The Netherlands

Date died: 1763

Place died: The Hague, The Netherlands

Artists’ biographer; painter. Van Gool was a minor painter of landscapes with cattle. He was trained as a painter with Simon van der Does (1653-1718). At the age of eighteen, he joined the Academy in The Hague where he took life drawing classes. At this institution, he served as a regent for many years. In his sixties, he wrote a collection of artists’ biographies, meant as an improvement on and a sequel to De Groote Schouburgh by Arnold Houbraken (q.v.), who, in his turn, was inspired by the Schilder-boeck of Karel van Mander (q.v.). Unlike these biographers who were both writer and painter, Van Gool had little formal education. The two-volume Nieuwe Schouburg, his only important publication, appeared in 1750-1751. The biographies are interrupted with verses written by himself and others, and illustrated with engraved portraits of various painters. The book gives factual information on the lives, education, and the works of Netherlandish painters born between 1630 and 1725. It also includes the history of the Academy of The Hague. Van Gool was concerned with the level of training of young artists. Like Houbraken, he regretted the decline of contemporary Dutch art. By immortalizing successful painters, particularly those of the seventeenth century, he wanted to encourage young artists to emulate them and, in doing so, to restore the glory of Dutch art. In a moralizing way, he saw the success of an artist as directly linked to his training and life style. His observations as an art critic, however, were forthright and independent. He regularly visited auction sales and art collections and acted as intermediary in the art market. At the same time, however, he complained that many art dealers specializing in high prized old art instead of contemporary art were unreliable. In his eyes the art market did not offer young artists sufficient opportunities to earn their livelihood and to build up a career. This was the main reason for what he saw as the decline of the art of his time. His criticism caused a conflict, expressed in a number of bitter pamphlets, between himself and art dealer Gerard Hoet, jr. (d. 1760). MD

Home Country: The Netherlands

Sources: Van der AA, A. J. Biographisch woordenboek der Nederlanden 3. Haarlem: J.J. van Brederode, 1852, p. 88; K. L. “Gool, Jan van.” Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler 14 (1921): 392; De Vries, Lyckle. Diamante gedenkzuilen en leerzaeme voorbeelden: een bespreking van Johan van Gool’s Nieuwe Schouburg. Groningen: Egbert Forsten, 1990 [incl. facs. of pamphlets exchanged between Hoet and Gool]; De Vries, Lyckle. “Gool, Jan [Johan] van.” Dictionary of Art 13 (1996): 2-3.

Bibliography: Van Gool, Johan. De Nieuwe Schouburg der Nederlantsche kunstschilders en schilderessen: Waer in de Levens- en Kunstbedryven der tans levende en reets overleedene Schilders, die van Houbraken, noch eenig ander schryver, zyn aengeteekend, verhaelt worden. The Hague: privately printed, 1750-1751; Antwoordt op den zoo genaemden brief aan een vrient. (Reply to the so-called letter to a friend) The Hague, 1752/3.

[Pamphlets by] Hoet, Gerard. Brief aan een’ vrient. (Letter to a friend) The Hague, 1751; Catalogus of naamlijst van schilderyen. The Hague, 1752, i, pp. vii-xii; Aanmerkingen op het eerste en tweede deel des ‘Nieuwen schouburgs’. (Comments on the first and second volumes of the ‘Nieuwe schouburg’) The Hague, 1753?