Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


WILHELM GDANIETZ (Mainz 1893 – Düsseldorf 1969)

A Volendam Fisherman Mending a Net

signed W. GDANIETZ in the lower left

oil on canvas

32 ¼ x 27 7/8 inches          (82.5 x 71 cm.)


Private Collection, Düsseldorf, until 2015


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]

By the time of Gdanietz’s arrival in 1927, Volendam remained unchanged. In A Volendam Fisherman Mending a Net a typical cottage interior is depicted. The walls are white stucco, the floor is covered by a striped thrush mat, and the furniture a simple wooden chair and bench. The decorations consist of earthenware jugs, a mounted blue and white plate, and a small seascape. The fisherman wears the traditional dress of the village that consisted of wooden shoes, wide black trousers, red jacket, and a fur hat or karpoets, with a heavier jacket slung over the back of the chair.[5] Typically a tear occurs everytime a net is hauled up, creating the need for constant repairs. Engrossed in his task, the fisherman works a wooden shuttle or net needle mending the mesh. [6]

Such scenes of fisherfolk in repose, secure in their own home along with a few prized possessions, 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.[7] Unwavering in his passion, immune to contemporary art trends, Gdanietz continued to paint Volendammers for the rest of his life.[8]

Gdanietz’s Im Gelben Seidenkleid (The Yellow Silk Gown) is recorded in the National Gallery of Berlin.[9] Another painting of the same size and similar subject by the artist, Oude Volendammer met Fuik (Old Volendammer with Fish-Trap), is in the permanent collection of the Hotel Spaander.[10] Owing to the way it was formed the Spaander collection is regarded as a guideline to the artistic heritage of Volendam. Volendammer in Interieur, again of a very similar subject, that Gdanietz executed circa 1930, in a horizontal format, was 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] Brian Dudley Barrett, op. cit., p. 62.

[6] Boris O. Knacke, “Methods of Net Mending” in Fishery Leaflet 241, United States Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C., May, 1947, pp. 1, 5, 6.

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

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

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

[10] For a reproduction see Brian Dudley Barrett, op. cit., p. 114.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

Tel: (212) 517-3643            Email: