Beginnings and background
Pierre’s father painted churches for a living and his hometown of Roermond had a history of producing sculptors and artists—Joep Nicolas, Henry Luyten, Jan Frans Douven were all from this city in the southeast of the Netherlands—so he had ample support and inspiration for his interest in the discipline.
In 1844, after completing his studies at a college in Roermond, he moved to Antwerp to pursue higher education in architecture at the Royal Art Academy. There he learned from Belgium’s leading pioneers of neo-Gothic architecture, including Frans Andries Durlet, Frans Stoop and Ferdinand Berckmans. Pierre excelled in his studies and in 1849 he was awarded the academy’s Prix d'Excellence. In 1851, after a stint in German Rheinland, Pierre returned to Roermond, where he was appointed a town architect. The following year, he opened a workshop to craft ecclesiastical art, and supplied churches the world over with sculptures, altars and ornaments.
At the beginning of Pierre’s career, his affinity for 13th-century French architecture and reverence for the work of his friend and fellow architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc shone through in churches that were tall and majestic, drawing the eye upward. Lambert's Church in Veghel and the Catharina's Church in Eindhoven are highlights of this era in Pierre’s oeuvre. As his craft developed, he incorporated more elements of Dutch neo-Gothic design, creating a sense of drama with imposing archways, ribbed vaults and stained glass. With an eye for detail, he also took a leading role in designing the interior of the buildings, often hand-crafting everything from the furnishings to the cutlery.
Making a mark
Pierre’s aesthetic continued to grow more eclectic culminating in the grandiose designs of two of Amsterdam’s most beloved building: The Rijksmuseum and Centraal Station. These two elaborate structures are a blend of Flemish, English, French and Dutch influences. The result is ambitious and grand, but also warm and welcoming, designed to foster a sense of community pride. The archway of the Rijksmuseum provides a bicycle path through the centre of the city, in a vaulted invitation to explore the beauty of Amsterdam.
Pierre continued with his craft deep into his old age, earning the Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau and the Gold Medal of Honour for Diligence and Ingenuity from the Order of the House of Orange. He passed away at the age of 94.
Verder met Cuypers (back to Cuypers)
Over the years, as the Rijksmuseum expanded, new rooms were added and the two original courtyards were covered to create more exhibition space. The 2013 renovation modernized the interior, but the overall structure was restored back to a more faithful representation of Pierre’s vision. The new Rijksmuseum renovation has been dubbed ‘verder met Cuypers,’ or ‘back to Cupyers’ and has inked a fresh chapter in the on-going love affair that the Netherlands has with Pierre Cuypers. Today, you can visit the Cuypershuis in Roermond to see a robust collection of the works that Cuypers created in his residence and studio workshop, along with a retrospective exhibition of his many contributions to Dutch culture.