Professor F.T. Scholten (1959) has been appointed professor of History of Western Sculpture, specialising in the Netherlands from the late Middle Ages until 1800, at the University of Amsterdam's (UvA) Faculty of Humanities. The chair has been made possible by the Bestuursfonds Hollandse Meesters/Rijksmuseum Fonds.
The appointment will be for one day per week in addition to his position as senior curator of sculpture at the Rijksmuseum. The Faculty of Humanities and the Rijksmuseum work closely together, including within the Conservation and Restoration programme in the Atelier Building, the Arts of the Netherlands Research Master's programme and at the Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science (NICAS).
Frits Scholten specialises in sculpture from the 15th through the 19th centuries. Historically, (teaching and research on) sculpture in the Netherlands has stood somewhat in the shadow of painting, thus leading to the persistent image that the Netherlands has only a marginal sculptural tradition. The truth, however, is that the Low Countries have indeed proved to be fertile ground for sculptors and sculpture for centuries, and have made essential contributions to this art form at various points in time since the Middle Ages. Strangely, the fact that many such sculptors acquired great fame abroad in their time – such as Haarlem natives Claus Sluter and Claus de Werve in Burgundy, the Hague-born Adriaen de Vries in Prague, and Brussels’ Frans du Quesnoy in Rome – did little for their national reputation: their names faded into obscurity and their works rarely reached their home countries. Scholten's research mission involves uncovering this often ‘forgotten’ group of artists and their role in the history of art.
In addition, his focus is aimed at the significance of sculpture in the public space, as a medium par excellence for securing political power and status. In this regard, one of his education and research topics for the years ahead concerns the role of sculpture as a republican medium in the Netherlands in the 17th and 18th centuries.
As a professor at the UvA, Scholten will focus on sculpture production in the Netherlands from a broad cultural-historic perspective, with an emphasis on the Medieval period and the early modern era. Scholten will teach in the Master's programme in Art History, particularly in the Arts of the Netherlands Research Master's. The link to the collections at the Rijksmuseum will remain an important guiding principle in these endeavours, also to promote students’ direct contact with art. Contributing to a better and more nuanced understanding of Dutch sculpture and history will be an important driving force behind Scholten's teaching in the coming years.
Frits Scholten has served as senior curator of sculpture at the Rijksmuseum since 1993, prior to which time he worked for nine years at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. In 2003 he obtained his PhD from the UvA in 17th-century Dutch tomb sculpture (Sumptuous Memories. Studies in seventeenth-century Dutch tomb sculpture). As professor by special appointment, he held the Rijksmuseum chair in Theory and History of Collection at VU Amsterdam between 2009 and 2016. Scholten has published extensively on European sculpture and applied arts. He was curator of the Adriaen de Vries, imperial sculptor exhibitions (Rijksmuseum, Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, The J. Paul Gettymuseum in Los Angeles, 1998-1999), for which he won the 2000 Eric Mitchell Prize for best worldwide English-language exhibition catalogue of the year 1999. He is currently preparing an international exhibition and catalogue on late-Medieval microsculpture for private devotion entitled Small Wonders. Scholten is coordinator of the Rijksmuseum Fellowship Programme and serves as editor of the Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, the Wallraf-Richartz Museum Jahrbuch and the series Studies in Netherlandish Art and Cultural History.