NWO grant for MBVB research into gifts and bequests from women!

Art historian Bram Donders, who works as a researcher at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, has received a Dutch Research Council (NWO) grant for his research project, Bequeathed, into women who have gifted or bequeathed artworks to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen since 1849.

Favicon for boijmans.pr.co Perskit: Portret van Mevr. Th. J. Hintzen-s'Jacob - Jan Sluiters / Portrait of Mrs. Th. J. Hintzen-s'Jacob... | Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Newsroom boijmans.pr.co

The significance of female donors and legators has never previously been the subject of study despite the fact that women have played an important role in shaping the museum’s collection: approximately one in five donors have been women. Kandinsky’s painting Lyrical (1911), for example, part of the Highlights Presentation in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, was bequeathed to the museum by Marie Tak van Poortvliet (1871-1936), an important collector of modern art. It is just one of many examples in the history of a museum whose collection has been largely built on gifts and bequests from private collectors.


Bram Donders: ‘It’s great that the NWO is backing this research into female donors and legators. Thanks to this support, we can give these women’s fascinating and beautiful stories a permanent place in the history of the museum.’


Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is delighted by the NWO grant, which recognises important and relevant research.



Donders’ research is entitled Bequeathed. Through this research project, the museum will highlight the significant role of women who have gifted or bequeathed artworks to MBVB. The new knowledge generated by this research will tell a richer story about the collection and its history, enabling a wider public to recognise itself in the stories the museum has to tell.


Little information is currently available about these women. The research will be conducted in three phases. In the first phase, the donors and legators will be inventoried, resulting in a dataset with biographical data and details about the donated objects. Phase two will explore who these women were, what they donated and why they gifted or bequeathed works. The third phase will use the knowledge acquired to assess the significance of women in the museum’s history.


Bram Donders’ research is part of The Other Half, which highlights the role of women in Dutch art history. This programme is a collaboration between the University of Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History.


Bram Donders

Bram Donders (1993) studied the history of art at Utrecht University, where he also obtained his MA. He worked as a junior curator at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and has worked as a researcher at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen since 2021. He is chairman of Jong VNK, the youth branch of the Association of Dutch Art Historians.

Donders was involved as a researcher in the acquisition of Berthe Morisot’s painting Peonies (c.1885-87). This canvas, which had previously been on loan to the museum, was acquired in January 2023. Donders discusses Morisot, her work and the role of women in art history in the May issue of Collect. You can find the article here:

Favicon for yumpu.com COLLECT Nederland Mei 2023 yumpu.com


Every year, the Dutch Research Council (NWO) offers scholars in the museum world the opportunity to conduct short-term research. The grant awarded to Bram Donders has a value of 50,000 euros. The grant was requested by Dr. Rachel Esner (University of Amsterdam), who will also serve as supervisor.

About Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The world-renowned art collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has over the span of 170 years expanded to more than 151,000 artefacts, which includes some 63,000 paintings, photos, films, pre-industrial design and design objects, contemporary art installations and sculptures, as well as 88,000 prints and drawings.

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