Persona May, 16th 2024 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 466 - Gerrit van Rijt

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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 466 – Gerrit van Rijt
Gerrit van Rijt was a photographer and a priest. He was the brother of my paternal grandmother, Anna van Rijt. She died in her fifties, I never got to know her. Gerrit lived in a completely past world, where Catholicism determined all aspects of life.

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Gerrit van Rijt had no brothers, he was the only son of the farmer-rentier Lambert van Rijt (1833-1923) and his wife Arnoldina van Bree (1834-1910). He grew up in the De Donk hamlet of the Peel village of Meijel, on the border of Brabant and Limburg. He attended the public primary school in Meijel (1876-1883) and then, as a boarding student, the Episcopal College in Roermond (1883-1889). After a two-year intermediate course at the minor seminary Rolduc, he continued his studies at the major seminary Roermond (1891-1895).

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Poorest parish in Maastricht
On March 30, 1895 he was ordained as a priest by Mgr. Boermans, after which he celebrated his first Holy Mass in Meijel on April 14, 1895.

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As a parish clergyman he did not progress beyond being a chaplain, from 1895 to 1910 in the Sint-Matthias parish in Maastricht and from 1910 to 1921 in the Sint-Martinus parish in Maastricht, in Wyck. It was soon clear that his ambitions lay elsewhere. In the Sint-Matthias parish, in the overpopulated working-class neighborhood of Boschstraatkwartier, he was confronted with the appalling living conditions of most of his parishioners. Gerrit van Rijt emerged as a socially committed spiritual director in this poorest parish in Maastricht. His attention was particularly focused on youth care, care and well-being of boys.

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First school founded at the age of 16
Van Rijt’s interest in education and youth care started early. Already at the age of sixteen he founded a school for children from the Neerkant op de Schans. In Maastricht, Van Rijt was from 1903, in addition to being a chaplain, director of the drawing school for young workers, which was founded in 1892. He was also committed to the establishment of the Maastricht vocational school.

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From 1921 he was episcopal inspector of Roman Catholic industrial education for boys and girls, for a long time the only position of its kind in the Netherlands. A year later, in 1922, he became director of three shelters of the Soeurs de la Miséricorde (“Sisters of Mercy”) in Maastricht. Van Rijt was also involved in various initiatives in the field of child protection in Limburg. For example, he was chairman of the southern circle of the Catholic Association for Child Protection. On June 17, 1947, he celebrated his silver jubilee as director of the homes of the Sisters of the Miséricorde.

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On that occasion he was appointed secret chamberlain of the Pope (with the title “monsignor”). In 1950, the eighty-year-old Van Rijt retired, but he continued his work for the Sisters of Mercy until his death in 1959.

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Gerrit van Rijt was an avid amateur photographer, especially in his younger years. For example, he took photographs in Meijel between 1898 and 1916, which resulted in the oldest surviving images for this village. Among those photos are the wedding of Hendrik Raemakers (with bowler hat), miller in Roggel, with Hedrika van Rijt (sister of Anna/ Antje and Hanneke) and a photo of Lambert van Rijt and wife at the stove in their farm on the Donk in Meijel.

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He probably became a member of the Maastricht Amateur Photographers Association (MAFV), founded a few years earlier, around 1897. Many of his Maastricht photos stand out because of their beautiful composition and lighting. Striking are a number of shots that can for some reason be referred to as ‘Old Maastricht’: atmospheric images of the City Park in the summer and in the snow, of fishermen on the Maas and city panoramas. Such recordings are also known from other early amateurs in Maastricht and fit in with the association’s interest in ‘picturesque’ images.
In addition, he had an eye for important events, such as the military maneuvers in South Limburg (1901), the visit of Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Hendrik (1903), the unveiling of the Minckelers statue (1904) and the construction of the Craft School (1911-1912), and he was an accomplished portrait photographer.
With thanks to Wikipedia and Ingrid Evers, ‘Gerrit van Rijt (1870-1959), priest and amateur photographer’. In: Yearbook of the Social-Historical Center for Limburg 2020. Studies on the socio-economic history of Limburg LXV (eds. N. Randeraad & W. Rutten). Social-Historical Center for Limburg, Maastricht. ISBN 978-94-625-8398-6

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1) Recording of an unknown mother with two daughters. SHCL Collection. Photo: Gerrit van Rijt, circa 1910, 2) military parade on the Markt Maastricht, 1901, 3) Royal visit, Lage Kanaaldijk, Maastricht, 1903, 4) Sisters Under the Arches in the Twelve Apostles House, Maastricht, ca. 1907, 5) Market day on the Market in Maastricht, ca. 1900¸ 6) Belvédère steam brick factory near Caberg, 1908, 7) Boys’ choir of the St. Matthias Church, Maastricht, ca. 1900, 8) Four female members of the Van Rijt family, Meijel, ca. 1900. Washing day behind the farm at De Donk. In the foreground with bucket and laundry bag Hanneke van Rijt (*1873). On the right Antje van Rijt (*1879) with a bucket on the well rod. In the background on the left is their aunt Johanna van Bree, the resident, unmarried, older sister of their mother Arnoldina van Rijt-van Bree, who is standing in the doorway. Medelo Local History Collection. Photo: Gerrit van Rijt, circa 1900, 9) Raemaekers-van Rijt wedding, wedding on the Donk in Meijel, 10) Gerrit van Rijt, ca 1906, Gerrit van Rijt, portrayed by J. van den Eerenbeemt (Atelier P. Stutz, Maastricht), ca. 1906

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