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33 The Leeuw brothers

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Nijmegen started to expand after the demolition of the city walls in the 1870s. A wide area was developed around the crescent shaped city centre. Large villas, mansions, schools and churches were built along the new canals and wide roads. This meant there was much work for architects and artists such as the Leeuw brothers.

The city was buzzing with building activity during the decades around the turn of the century. Various architects were involved in the expansion, including J.J. Weve, C. Eysvogel, C.H. Peters, D. Semmelink, G. Buskens, A. A.J. Margry, N. Molenaar, Ch.M.F.H. Estourgie and A.J. Kropholler. However, the name that dominated was that of the artistic family Leeuw. In particular the youngest son, architect Oscar Leeuw, influenced early 20th century architecture in Nijmegen. He designed a building in almost every street.

Oscar Leeuw was the son of sculptor Henri senior. Oscar’s brother, Henri junior, was a painter and sculptor. In 1886 the two Henris crafted the life-sized stone lion with the city’s coat of arms that can still be seen in Kronenburger Park. Oscar worked together with both his father and brother. In 1904 he built a modern house at 58-60 Graafseweg. This housed his architectural bureau as well as his wife and family.

In this period Oscar Leeuw mostly designed luxurious villas, cafe-restaurants and shops. As he often built in the Art Nouveau style, his brother, Henri jr, designed the embellishments. Leeuw had good connections with wealthy principals, so he could indulge in his rich, decorative style. One of the highlights of this period is the hunting lodge, de Mookerheide, which he built between 1902 and 1905 for the wealthy Jan Jacob Luden.

During the following decades Leeuw, whose fame was still growing, designed some outstanding public buildings. Examples are the synagogue with classrooms and apartments on Gerard Noodtstraat (1912-1913, now the Natuurmuseum/Museum of Natural History), the concert hall De Vereeniging on Keizer Karelplein (1914-1915) and the Museum G.M. Kam on Museum Kamstraat (1920-1922, based on the plans of an imaginary Roman Villa). The latter is more restrained than his earlier works and demonstrates his expressionistic tendencies. This also applies to the Nijmeegsche Bankvereeniging Van Engelen en Schippers building at 70-72 Hertogstraat (1920-1921).

Leeuw’s villas and mansions are all notable, thanks to their characteristic ornamentation and rich alternating designs with many domes, towers, pavilions, oriels and porches.
A family of artists shapes Nijmegen
circa 1900-1930
The Lion in Kronenburgerpark, by Henri Leeuw sr. and jr., 1886 (AM)

33 leeuwkronenburgerpark.jpg

Source: Jan Brabers, in: De Canon van Nijmegen, Uitgeverij Vantilt (Nijmegen 2009)
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