Douwes Library & Research
The illustration and photo library contains unique documentation and forms the backbone of the company’s expertise. During research we first check our own files and extensive book library before studying elsewhere. Upon request art historians are welcome to use our facilities. At past and present we were able to help insurers discover the authenticity of stolen works after questionable claims. During 110 years of filing by the various Douwes generations and dedicated volunteers we can browse through over 400.000 illustrations and thousands of books and catalogues from auctions and dealers worldwide.
In professional art libraries paid staff is digitalizing material to safeguard historical documents, going back in time from the present and slowly reaching the 1960’s. At Douwes we feel blessed to keep using unique material dating back to professionalised photography since 1905.
Our additional slide library contains over 40.000 images and we are in the process of digitalizing this quality product.
The sixth Evert Douwes (1888-1971) of the fourth gallery-generation entering his father’s business first went to Germany, spending time with the renowned art dealer Wenzel from Breslau .The period that followed around 1912, he spent in Frankfurt with the world famous dealer Haenfstangel. This stay would prove to be of lasting significance to his interest in documenting art. Haenfstangel was the first photographer to come up with a method of producing perfect reproductions of paintings in larger quantities, the famous brownish prints (carbon transfers). To this end, he went to all the European museums and art dealers, photographing the whole of western art spanning the period from 1200 to 1800. The photos were printed in dark-brown hues on thin paper of approximately A4 size.
It fascinated Evert, who saw it as a means of increasing his knowledge. At his departure, he received 10.000 of these photo images as a gift, and they became the basis of the present library. Once again, here was a Douwes generation that made a case for documentation, and would hand it on to the next generation. In 1918, he wrote to a trainee being considered for employment about his future activities: “Bookkeeping at present is simply structured, but we are lagging behind. Once we have caught up, there will be much time for talking with possible visitors, setting up a card index filing system, and the collection of Old-Amsterdam. I have laid the basis for a technical library (still modest, though) that will serve every member of the firm.”
Inside Douwes Library in Amsterdam