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Lugt, Frits-02

Lugt, Frederik Johannes (Frits)

Dutch art historian and collector (1884-1970)

Frits Lugt had the soul of a collector. Even as a boy, he started a collection and founded his own museum, ‘The Lugtius Museum; open when the director is at home.' The great Rembrandt exhibition held in Amsterdam in 1898 opened his eyes to the master's work, which would inspire him all his life - an interest that is apparent in his well-known Walks with Rembrandt in and around Amsterdam (1915). Even before he had completed secondary school, Lugt worked at the auctioneer's Frederik Muller and Co. Compiling the auctioneer's catalogues sharpened his eye as a connoisseur, and made him aware of the importance of thorough research into a work's provenance.

In 1915 Lugt left the auctioneer's. His marriage to Johanna Klever (1888-1969) had made him financially independent; from then on, the couple were able to focus on building their own collection. At first, they concentrated on drawings, prints and old books, which were less expensive than paintings. Over the years, guided by Lugt's expert eye and feel for quality, they gathered a magnificent collection of more than 7,000 drawings and 30,000 prints. As well as about 300 paintings and miniature portraits, this contains a great collection of artists' letters. In 1947 the couple housed the collection in the Fondation Custodia in Paris, where the Institut Néerlandais, another of Lugt's initiatives, was also established ten years later.

In the minds of collectors, art dealers and art historians, Lugts' name is linked not only to his collection, but particularly to two great standard works that are still regarded as indispensable. First was Les marques de collections de dessins et d'estampes, an inventory of collectors' brands which he published in 1921, following it with a supplement in 1956. Then there were the four volumes of the Répertoire des catalogues de ventes publiques, which were published from 1938, and which analyse and describe auctioneers' catalogues from 1600. International recognition of Lugts' expertise became apparent when he was asked to catalogue the Dutch and Flemish drawings in the Louvre, the Bibliothèque Nationale, and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

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