Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


WILHELMUS (WILM) HENDRIKUS MARIE WOUTERS (The Hague 1887 – Amsterdam 1957)

De Zaligmaker in Church

signed W. Wouters in the upper left

oil on canvas

42 x 33 ¼ inches          (108 x 85 cm.)


Lieveland Collection, De Rijp, The Netherlands, until 2015



Enkhuizen, Zuiderzeemuseum, Volendam Kunstenaarsdorp het Erfgoed van Hotel Spaander (Volendam Artists Village, The Heritage of Hotel Spaander) November 11, 2009 - May 2, 2010

Volendam, Volendams Museum, Wilm Wouters Schildert Volendam, March 15 – November 8, 2015 (This painting was used as the announcement poster for the exhibition.)



Brian Dudley Barrett & André Groeneveld, Volendam Kunstenaarsdorp het Erfgoed van Hotel Spaander (Volendam Artists Village, The Heritage of Hotel Spaander) Zuiderzeemuseum, Enkhuizen, 2009, p. 149, illustrated

“Wilm Wouters Schildert Volendam” in de-Maarschalk, March 10, 2015, illustrated


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 houses crammed with objects appealed to the imagination of artists and collectors alike.[1] Wilm Wouters who lived among them, captured their souls as opposed to only their reflections in his work. This painting depicts Geertje Karregat (1837-1924) known as de Zaligmaker (the Savior), holding a rosary, in a pew of the seventeenth century Protestant Church of Volendam.[2] Behind her, an older man and two children are seated. Geertje was married to the fisherman Jan Pooijer Pantjes (1828-1898) with whom she had five children. They lived in the Doolhof, on a narrow street in the oldest part in the center of Volendam, in a house so tiny that the Land Registry regarded it as too small to list. In their old age, they took any job they could find to keep financially afloat. After Geertje was widowed at the age of 61, she knitted sweaters, socks, and muffs on order. Why she came to be known as de Zaligmaker stems from the job she took to pray and prepare the villagers for their funerals. Clothed in the traditional garb of the village, Geertje was photographed by tourists, and due to her striking appearance, became a popular model for artists (i.e. Piet van der Hem, Willy Sluiter, Albert Polydor Ternote, and Maximilian Vanka). Through these means she received national recognition and came to be perceived as emblematic of Volendam.[3]

John Sillevis stated regarding Wouters’ De Zaligmaker in Church, “had he been an American this work would hang in a place of honor in the National Gallery in Washington”.[4] There are three known versions of the composition, two in the collection of the Hotel Spaander, and this one, which until last year was privately held. They are identical in subject and size. The Spaander paintings employ a darker palette of pronounced blues and blacks, particularly in the costuming of Geertje; whereas in our work, browns and greys predominate, lending a more ethereal quality to the scene. One of the Spaander versions was exhibited at Arti et Amicitiae in 1923 and executed in 1922. It is unknown which version was first painted.

Wouters was obviously drawn to Geertje due to the expressiveness of her entire being. As succinctly demonstrated by this work, what greater theme could an artist undertake than the symbolic struggle of survival in the face of adversity, while placing full faith in the presence of a higher power. Coupled with the unflinching modernity of its image, it is hardly surprising that the Volendams Museum chose this painting as the banner for their Wouters retrospective, as it is a masterpiece.

Before Wouters became an artist, he was a sailor and then a diamond cutter. He began his artistic training in 1908 with Albert Hahn. From 1909 to 1914, he was enrolled at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, and was a student of Carl Lodewijk Dak, Antonius Johannes Derkinderen, and Nicolaas van der Waay; but it would be his 1918 move from Amsterdam to Volendam, that would prove transformative.[5] In all likelihood, Wouters, like so many of his colleagues, arrived in Volendam in search of the “unspoiled” villages of the Netherlands. From the 1880s onwards, artists from all over the world had become enamored of all things Dutch, and arrived in droves to search for what they considered the “true” Holland. Volendam, eleven miles north of Amsterdam, in the 1880s was a remote fishing village accessible only by canalboat or carriage. Such isolation had left Volendam largely untouched by the modernization and industrialization prevalent in such Dutch cities as Rotterdam and Amsterdam or other foreign capitals, and it was exactly this feature that proved so attractive.  Noting a lack of hotel accommodations, a local entrepreneur by the name of Leendart Spaander spotted an opportunity and opened his house to foreign artists. By 1881 he had purchased a bar in Volendam and converted it into the Hotel Spaander (which is still in existence today).[6] In 1895, cleverly and with much forethought, Spaander had two of his daughters don the traditional dress of Volendam, and accompany him to the opening of an exhibition for the Dutch artist Nico Jungman in London, which caused a sensation. Spaander followed this up by having postcards printed featuring Volendam and his hotel, and sent them to all foreign art academies. He also ran ads for the hotel with the Holland-America shipping line. At the hotel, he installed rooms featuring typical Volendam interiors, and then rented them to artists. For an extra fee he supplied models. Spaander had seven daughters who often posed for artists, and unsurprisingly three eventually married painters, including his youngest Conny who married Wouters in 1919. 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, teemed with artists, and along with Spaander’s ever-growing collection, functioned as a draw for the hotel and attracted tourists from everywhere. Such millionaires as Andrew Carnegie, William Randolph Hearst, Anna Pavlova, Harold Lloyd, Clark Gable, and Walt Disney, as well as members of the Dutch and German royal families, visited.[7]

Conny and Wouters, along with her sisters Pauline and Trinette, and their husbands, the German painter Georg Hering and French artist Augustine Haricotte respectively, held a central place within the artists’ colony of Volendam. They acted as role models for the community, and were particularly helpful in assisting new arrivals, and organizing ateliers. Conny and Wouters’ first son, also named Wilm, was born in 1919. Leendart Spaander lived to be 99 years old (1855-1955), and through the years his collection grew substantially, with Wouters contributing more than sixty works. Because of the nature of its formation, the Spaander Collection is viewed as a guideline to the artistic heritage of Volendam, the importance of which was documented in Volendam Artists Village, The Heritage of Hotel Spaander, in which this painting was illustrated, published by the Zuiderzeemuseum in 2009.[8] 

Wouters lived in Volendam until 1925, and then moved to Amsterdam. Besides being an excellent draftsman and painter, he worked in pastels and watercolor, and executed etchings, lithographs and woodcuts. His subject matter included landscapes, cityscapes, florals, and genre, but foremost portraiture. He was a member of Arti et Amicitae, the St. Luke Society, and Mija Rembrandt. Besides works in the Spaander Collection and the Zuiderzeemuseum, there is a charcoal drawing, De Kaartlegger (Reading the Cards) in the Volendams Museum, and a still-life painting in the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.[9]



[1] Brian Dudey Barrett & André Groeneveld, op cit., p. 248.

[2] Piet Koning, Wilm Wouters, In opdracht van de Stitchting Artist Kom Binne, 2015, p. 59.

[3] Biographical information taken from Dick Brinkkemper, Peter Kersloot, Kees Sier, Volendam schildersdorp, 1880-1940, Waanders Uitgevers, 2006, p. 170; Piet Koning, op.cit., pp. 56-58; and “Klaas Koster, Portrait of Geertje Karregat” on (RKD Explore) website.

[4] “Als Wilm Wouters een Amerikaan was geweest hing dit werk op een ereplaats in de National Gallery in Washington.”, See Piet Koning, op. cit., p. 59.

[5] Dirk Brinkkemper, Peter Kersloot, Kees Sier, op. cit., p. 126.

[6]  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, pp. 247-248, 254; and Annette Stott, Holland Mania, The Overlook Press, Woodstock, New York, 1998, pp. 44-45.

[7]  Ivo Blom, op. cit., pp. 247, 254.

[8]  Brian Dudley Barrett & André Groeneveld, op. cit., pp. 132, 144, 150, 154.

[9]  Biographical information taken from Hans Vollmer, “Wilm (Wilhelmus) Wouters in Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler des XX. Jahrhunderts, volume V-Z, Veb. E.A. Seemann Verlag, Leipzig, 1953, p. 170; Pieter A. Scheen, “Wilhelmus Hendrikus Marie (Wilm) Wouters” in Lexicon Nederlandse Beeldende Kunstenaars 1750–1950, volume 2, ‘s-Gravenhage, 1969-1970, pp. 626-627; and Dirk Brinkkemper, Peter Kersloot, Kees Sier, op. cit., p. 26.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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