Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


WILHELM GDANIETZ (Mainz 1893 – Düsseldorf 1969)

A Volendam Fisherman

signed W. GDANIETZ in the lower right

oil on canvas

12 x 12 ⅛ inches          (30.5 x 31 cm.)


Private Collection, Michigan


Wilhelm Gdanietz was a painter of interiors and genre as well as a printmaker.  He studied at the Art Academy of Düsseldorf with Claus Meyer, the history painter Karl-Franz-Eduard von Gebhardt and Willy Spatz from 1911 – 1918. He also apprenticed in the studio of Franz Kiederich.[1] In 1927 Gdanietz stayed at the Hotel Spaander in Volendam and discovered the subject-matter to which he would devote his career.[2] From the 1880s onwards foreign artists from all over the world became enamored with all things Dutch and arrived in droves to search for what they considered the “true” Holland. Volendam, eleven miles north of Amsterdam, at the time was a remote fishing village accessible only by canal boat or carriage. Such isolation had left Volendam largely untouched by modernization and the industrialization prevalent in Dutch cities such as Rotterdam and Amsterdam or other foreign capitals and it was exactly this feature which proved so attractive. Lacking hotel accommodations a local entrepreneur by the name of Leendart Spaander spotted an opportunity and opened his house to visiting artists. By 1881 he had purchased a bar in Volendam and converted it into the Hotel Spaander (which is still in existence today).  At the hotel he installed rooms featuring typical Volendam interiors and then rented them to artists. For an extra fee he supplied models. Spaander also had seven daughters who often posed for artists. Spaander further extended his operation by buying the land behind his hotel and building studios for artists who wanted to prolong their stay in Volendam. As a result of such accommodations an international artist colony formed. Spaander was able to amass a large art collection as unpaid accounts were occasionally settled in exchange for paintings. Volendam viewed as quaint, colorful and exotic teeming with artists, along with Spaander’s ever growing collection, all functioned as a draw for the hotel and attracted painters as well as tourists from everywhere.[3] Outsiders idealized the people of Volendam who were viewed as pious, honest, healthy and happy. Their needs were felt to be meager and were seen as removed from such social ills as alcoholism. Their colorful costumes and tiny wooden cottages with doll house interiors crammed with objects appealed to the imagination of artists and collectors alike.[4]

Volendam remained unchanged by the time of Gdanietz’s arrival in 1927. The artist’s dramatic portrayal of A Volendam Fisherman against a backdrop of clouds forcefully projects the nobility of the traditional lifestyle embraced by these villagers. Rooted to the past along with a refusal to don modern dress our sitter is emblematic of a period that has almost vanished. While his weather-beaten face underlines the harshness of life upon the sea he is resplendent in the red tunic, fur hat or karpoets typical of the villagers. Such scenes of fisherfolk came to characterize the majority of Gdanietz’s oeuvre.

After returning to Germany in the 1930s, in order to maintain authenticity the artist transformed his studio in Düsseldorf into an interior that replicated a Volendam cottage. He further outfitted it with objects, furniture and costumes from the region as well as other parts of Holland.[5] Unwavering in his passion, immune to contemporary art trends, Gdanietz continued to paint Volendammers for the rest of his life.[6]

Gdanietz’s Im Gelben Seidenkleid (The Yellow Silk Gown) is recorded as in the National Gallery of Berlin.[7] Another painting by the artist titled Oude Volendammer met Fuik (Old Volendammer with Fish-Trap) is in the permanent collection of the Hotel Spaander. Owing to the way it was formed the collection is regarded as a guideline to the artistic heritage of Volendam. Gdanietz’s Volendammer in Interieur was just purchased by the Zuiderzeemuseum, Enkhuizen in 2010.



[1] Biographical information taken from Hans Vollmer, “Wilhelm Gdanietz” in Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler des XX. Jahrhunderts, volume E-I, Veb. E.A. Seemann Verlag, Leipzig, 1953, pp. 212-213.

[2] Brian Dudley Barrett, Volendam Artists Village: The Heritage of Hotel Spaander, uitgeverij d’jonge Hond, Zuiderzeemuseum, 2009, p. 160.

[3] Ivo Blom, “Of Artists and Tourists: Locating Holland in Two Early German Films” in A Second Life German Cinema’s First Decades, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 1996, p. 255.

[4] Brian Dudley Barrett, op. cit., p. 248.

[5] “Wilhelm” Gdanietz” in Volendam in Interiors, Zuiderzeemuseum, November, 2010.

[6] Hans Kraan, Dromen van Holland, Waanders Uitgevers, Zwolle, 2002, pp. 375 – 376.

[7] Hans Vollmer, op. cit., p. 213.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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