|"The Six Boissevain Daughters" by Thérèse Schwartze|
(1916). L to R, front row: Teau, Mary, Heentje, Emily
Héloïse. Behind: Els and Dieuke. Portrait is
in the Amsterdam Museum.
Singer and Music Lover
He was extremely musical and my mother said he was viewed as having the singing talents of a Caruso, but needed to work in business to support his family of ten children.
Charles E. H. used both his musical and his business skills as a longtime member of the Board of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw during his crucial formative years.
He helped sustain Willem Mengelberg as the Concertgebouw's famed conductor, some said the greatest conductor in the world of his day.
My mother told me that Charles E. H. introduced her to Mengelberg in 1930.
His Wife Marie Pijnappel
On February 19, 1891, he married Marie Pijnappel, who was born July 10, 1870. She had what was then called, my mother told me, a "masculine brain", and she was elected first to the Amsterdam City Council and then to the Dutch Parliament, where she was the first woman member.
Marie was, my mother said, "as prickly as her name suggests". She wished no Bohemian household, and when one of her six daughters was returned to her from the hospital, she waved away the governess who was with her and said: "Take her away, she smells of iodine." She helped make her husband a business success.
His Business Fortune and Collapse
Charles E. H. was one of several in his family involved in the chemical fertilizer industry. He dealt with Germany's I. G. Farben, which through a 1925 merger of six companies became the largest chemical company in the world (and was infamous for making the Kyklon B gas used in the gas chambers). In 1936, when Hitler had consolidated his power as demonstrated by the Olympics in Berlin, the German government cast around for ways to generate foreign revenue to pay for acquisition of armaments.
That year, having been misled by both I. G. Farben and three Dutch chemical companies, as described in part here, the Boissevain family lost out and several members including Charles E. H.'s son Bob were bankrupted.
Family Group (work in progress)
Charles Boissevain (1842-1927) = Emily MacDonnell (1844-1931)
The 11 children of Charles and Emily:
1. Charles E. H. (1868-1940)=Maria Barbera Pijnappel (1870-1950)
The 11 Children of Charles E. H.:11 Menso (1892-)=Lies12 Charles Hercules (1893-1946) 13 Robert Lucas (Bob) (1895-1945) = Sonja van Tienhoven. With six children, sheltered four Jewish "underdivers"; the parents and six children all won a Yad Vashem award. 14 Helena Catherina Justina (Heentje) (1897-)=D. Mesman, three children.15 Maria Cornelia (Mary) (1899-) = de Jong, four children.16 Laurens Rijnhart (1901-)17 Emily Heloise (1903-) = Holleck, four children.18 Catherina Josephine (Teau) (1905) = Huiskes, three children.19 Elisabeth Atania (Els) (1907-), three children.1A Dieuke Machteld Hilda (1910-), five children.
Portrait of Their Six Daughters (Tijhoff)
I have translated, with her permission, the following into English from a post in Dutch by Esmerelda Tijhoff, whom I met at the Boissevain Family Reunion on April 16, 2016:
The Boissevain family liked to have itself painted. In 1916 Thérèse Schwartz (1851-1918) produced the famous group portrait of the six daughters of Charles E. H. Boissevain and Maria Pijnappel.
This beautiful painting is currently on loan to the Amsterdam Museum. It was featured in the April 2016 Boissevain Reunion.
I first saw the work in 2011. I asked myself these questions: What is so special about this painting? How did it etch itself into the memory of the Netherlands?
I conducted a search for the background of the painting. One day I visited a wonderful canal house in Amsterdam where an exhibition was held of the work of Thérèse Schwartze. She was known for her warm portrait paintings of well-off Dutch families. She had an elegant style, but her subjects were always shown realistically.
Schwartze's style was so popular that she was asked to paint members of the Royal Family. In 1896 she became the first woman to be made a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau. I had heard of the work of Schwartze, and traveled to Amsterdam to see the nineteenth-century Amsterdam elite through her paintings.
I went to the Van Loon Museum, located in the house on the Keizersgracht 672. Inside you could get an impression of how the house had functioned in the nineteenth century. The decoration was done with furniture from various centuries, and the kitchen was ready for use by a nineteenth-century cook. On the walls were the grand paintings of the Amsterdam aristocracy. A perfect location, providing the right atmosphere and context for the paintings.
One painting caught my attention immediately, it is one of Schwartz's last major works: "The Six Boissevain Daughters".