Louis Koopman and Anny Antoine: biographies

Louis Koopman: chronology

1887   Louis Jan Koopman is born in Amsterdam (9 June)
1909 Starts working for Allgemeine Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG) in Düsseldorf
1913 Starts working as Akquisitions-Ingenieur for Brown, Boveri und Cie. in Mannheim
1914 Returns to Amsterdam; starts working as head of sales for N.V. Elektriciteitsmaatschappij A.E.G.
1917 Studies at the Rheinisches Technikum Bingen (1917/1918)
1920 Head of the medical dapartment of N.V. Elektriciteitsmaatschappij A.E.G. in Amsterdam
1921 Certificate of the Elektro-Ingenieur-Schule at the Deutsches Technikum in Berlijn (5 March)
1922 Associate president of subsidiary Metema N.V., a company that produced medical appliances
1923 Member of the the Royal Institute of Engineers
1925 President of Almara (previously: Metema)
  Meets Anny Antoine (November)
1931 Engagement to Anny Antoine (25 December)
1933 Anny Antoine dies (25 June)
1935 Appointed Officer in the Order of Oranje-Nassau
1936 Discusses the donation of his book collection with the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands
1940 Donates his book collection to the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands; continues to add to his collection until his death
1948 Gains ownership of Almara
1960 Passes doctoral exam in physics, with medical physics and mathematics as secondary courses
1965 Obtained his doctorate with a thesis on Work and effort
1968 Marries his housekeeper Sara Maria Groen
  Dies (3 November)
  Koopman’s book is published: Anny Antoine: sa vie, nos conversations littéraires (posthumously)
  Bequeaths the Anny Antoine/Louis Koopman fund to the Dutch state for the benefit of the Koopman Collection
1972 The Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands does its first acquisitions for the Koopman Collection from the Anny Antoine/Louis Koopman Fund
Passport photographs of Louis Koopman
Passport photographs of Louis Koopman

Passport photographs of Louis Koopman

Medical appliance by Siemens: X-ray tube
Medical appliance by Siemens: X-ray tube

Medical appliance by Siemens: X-ray tube

Showroom Almara c. 1950
Showroom Almara c. 1950

Showroom Almara c. 1950

Almara at the Rokin (Amsterdam)
Almara at the Rokin (Amsterdam)

Almara at the Rokin (Amsterdam)

The life of Louis Koopman

The life of Louis Jan Koopman holds a wide range of activities. Professionally, he was both a businessman and a scientist, the latter of which grew increasingly dominant. On top of that, he was - among other things- an art lover and especially an expert of French literature, for which a firm basis had already been established in his early childhood.

He was born in Amsterdam on 9 June 1887. Nothing is known about his father; his mother was a teacher and held a secondary school teaching certificate in French. Besides, the family, which consisted of several children, belonged to the Walloon church. The Koopman children therefore grew up in continuous touch with the French language, first through lessons from their mother, and later thanks to the enthusiasm of the Walloon preacher Étienne Giran, who proved to be an inexhaustible champion of the French language and literature during his time in Amsterdam (from 1900 to 1920). Besides (and after) his regular catechism lessons, the young Koopman followed various other courses. Giran had a great influence on him, as did his successor, Charles le Cornu, who became a dear friend of his.

There is some confusion about Louis Koopman’s education: one might say that this confusion extended throughout his entire life. He must have had his engineering degree already, or at least well on his way to attaining one, when he entered the employ of the Allgemeine Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft Düsseldorf in 1909. He left this firm as of 30 September 1913, to become Akquisitions-Ingenieur directly thereafter at Brown, Boveri und Cie, Mannheim.

After World War I erupted, Koopman returned to Amsterdam, where he became the head of the department of consumer sales of the N.V. Elektriciteitsmaatschappij A.E.G., which dealt mostly with medical appliances. He was described as 'an excellent engineer and an outstanding canvasser'. This assessment resulted in his appointment as head of the medical department as of 1 January 1920, and as vice-president of the newly formed subsidiary Metema N.V. after 1922.

Meanwhile, in 1917/1918, he studied at the Rheinisches Technikum Bingen for a semester, after which he graduated on 5 March 1921 from the Elektro-Ingenieur-Schule at the Deutsches Technikum in Berlin. This made him more than qualified for regular membership of the Royal Institute of Engineers in The Hague (July 1923), of which he joined the board of directors after some time as treasurer. After 1927 he interrupted his membership until mid-1933, when he became a member of the 'Department of Electrical Engineering and Technical Physics'.

Meanwhile, Koopman’s longtime speciality had fully crystallised: medical radiology. This is proved by his commercial activities for the company Almara ('General Society for Radiology, Electrology, and Surgery'), based in Amsterdam on the Rokin. It is unclear whether he founded the business, but we do know that he was its president in 1936. He built up a strong profile as a scientist in those years. He participated in conferences in his own country and abroad: Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, as an audience member or as a speaker in the filed of electrocardiography, electro-encephalography and X-ray technology, and he published articles on these subjects in magazines such as Strahlentherapie, British journal of radiology and Archiv für Psychologie und Neurologie. All this undoubtedly contributed to his appointment as officer in the order of Oranje-Nassau by Royal Decision in 1935, nominated by the Minister of Education, Arts and Sciences.

Besides his professional life, which entailed a great deal of travelling both inside the country and abroad, Louis Koopman also found time for other activities, in the first place for the expansion of his book collection. He also collected paintings, with a certain preference for father and son Kasper and Eduard Karsen (the latter of whom was a close friend of his), but also for French painters such as Cavaillès and Raffaelli. He had a lot of contact with artists through his membership as an 'art-loving club member' of the art society Arti et Amicitiae, where he even became a member of the club management committee. In these circles, he probably also met the designers of both bookplates that appear in his collection: Samuel Garf and Félicien Bobeldijk.

Just before the war, his scientific work expanded further. Louis Koopman, then in his early fifties, began to study Mathematics and Physics at the University of Utrecht. During the war years, he prepared himself for the B.Sc. examination, which he passed on 22 October 1945. Koopman soon saw that the Institute of Engineers was heading in the wrong direction, ideologically speaking: he cancelled his membership, and was able to return without a blemish on his record shortly after the war.

Between 1945 and 1949, Koopman was able to combine his daily efforts with work at the department of Medical Physics of the Utrecht university, where he researched cardiac sounds. He obtained his doctoral degree on 15 February 1960, majoring in physics, with mathematics and medical physics as secondary subjects. Medical physics became a subject that continued to fascinate him, and on which he held lectures and published articles. The project 'work and effort' led to his promotion on 1 December 1965 for professor Burger, his dissertation also titled Work and effort.

During the last years of his life, Louis Koopman worked on the realization of a long-cherished plan: a book on his fiancée Anny Antoine. He succeeded in finishing it, in spite of his deteriorating health, but he didn't live to see it published. He died on 3 November 1968.

Anny Antoine and Louis Koopman
Anny Antoine and Louis Koopman

Anny Antoine and Louis Koopman

Portrait ofLouis Koopman. Oil by H. Yckelenstam (c. 1958)
Portrait ofLouis Koopman. Oil by H. Yckelenstam (c. 1958)

Portrait ofLouis Koopman. Oil by H. Yckelenstam (c. 1958)

One of five bookplates fot the Koopman Collection commemorating Anny Antoine
One of five bookplates fot the Koopman Collection commemorating Anny Antoine

One of five bookplates fot the Koopman Collection commemorating Anny Antoine

Title page of Louis Koopman's book on Anny Antoine (1968)
Title page of Louis Koopman's book on Anny Antoine (1968)

Title page of Louis Koopman's book on Anny Antoine (1968)

Anny Antoine: chronology

1897 Anne Catherine Antoine born in Saint-Gilles-les-Bruxelles (25 April)
1913 Anny’s mother dies
1914 Anny’s father remarries
  During World War I, the Antoine family resides in Ukkel under trying circumstances
1921 Moves to Antwerp. Lives in a home for young ladies
1924 Moves to Paris. Works in a fashion house 
1925 Moves to The Hague. Works as a private French tutor
  Meets Louis Koopman at the Alliance Française (November)
1928 Moves to Van Speykstraat nr. 10 (also in The Hague)
1931 Engagement to Louis Koopman (25 December)
1931 Attains her French M.O.-A. diploma (teaching degree)
1933 Dies after being hit by a tramcar (25 June). Funeral in Erps Kwerps in Belgium
1936 Anny’s book collection of approximately 600 deluxe copies is added to the collection of Louis Koopman
Anny Antoine (photograph)
Anny Antoine (photograph)

Anny Antoine (photograph)

Boarding house,Van Speyckstraat 10, The Hague
Boarding house,Van Speyckstraat 10, The Hague

Boarding house,Van Speyckstraat 10, The Hague

Anny Antoine's visiting card
Anny Antoine's visiting card

Anny Antoine's visiting card

Anny Antoine's passport (1931)
Anny Antoine's passport (1931)

Anny Antoine's passport (1931)

Anny Antoine in 1925
Anny Antoine in 1925

Anny Antoine in 1925

Portrait of Anny Antoine after a photograph. Oil, by H. Yckelenstam (c. 1958)
Portrait of Anny Antoine after a photograph. Oil, by H. Yckelenstam (c. 1958)

Portrait of Anny Antoine after a photograph. Oil, by H. Yckelenstam (c. 1958)

The life of Anny Antoine

Anny Antoine was born on 25 April 1897 in Saint-Gilles-les-Bruxelles. Her father was a railway official with a lively interest for art and especially history. The atmosphere in the family must have been such that the only daughter looked forward to returning home.

Her mother’s death in 1913 cast a shadow over this happy childhood; her father remarried in 1914. There was a great deal of affection between Anny and her second mother from the very beginning. World War I and the German occupation hardly went unnoticed by the Antoine family, which also included a son from the first marriage. While father was fighting in France, mother and the children were left to their own devices during the painful famine while living in Ukkel. Anny Antoine continued to suffer the consequences of the occupation. From then on, her helath was poor, suffering from a stomach disease, and she never lost the disgust she felt for the 'furor teutonicus'. There are few traces in her life for any interest in Germany, though she was interested in England, and it might not be too daring to suppose that her love for French culture in general and the French language and literature in particular was intensified by her war memories. She had actually been spoon-fed this love: her family was of French descent. It's unclear what education Anny had after primary school in Ukkel; her great intellectual interest and energy make it probable that she began her career as a private French tutor as an autodidact. In any case, she had all the necessary books for this at home.

No matter how fond Anny Antoine was of her parental home and the quiet life in Ukkel, she felt the need to break free as time passed. In 1921, the moment finally came: Anny moved to Antwerp with the expectation of teaching her Flemish fellow countrymen to speak French. Students proved to be hard to come by, which made life on the river Schelde that much more difficult, as she also craved her financial independence.

Anny lived at a home for young ladies, ‘Le Foyer des Alliés’, apparently in the form of some kind of social club, with all the friendships and outings it entails. Her housemates called themselves ‘mouettes’ (gulls), and Anny maintained friendships with several of them. Nevertheless, she still wanted to leave Antwerp: Paris was calling. Anny managed to earn some money as a lady companion with a good family, and she departed for the capital of the promised land in May 1924.

There could of course be no question of teaching French there. Anny found a job at a respected fashion house on the avenue de l’Opéra, where she came into contact with better circles and was able to perfect her perhaps somewhat Belgian French. She also developed a great deal of cultural activity, visiting theatres (a great passion of hers), museums and galleries, and acquainting herself with contemporary literature, which she had until then disregarded in favour of classical and romantic literature. It was fitting that she who was so devoted to Balzac had her residence in Passy, close to the Musée Balzac. Her hosts supported her in every possible way, and even gave her the idea of resuming her language tutoring, now that she was in The Hague. She arrived there in October 1925.

After a short stay at the hotel Astoria (which has now disappeared) and boarding houses in the Bazarstraat and the Anna Paulownastraat, she found a residence she liked in 1928 in the Van Speykstraat 10, with a family that was very fond of her. She could receive her students there and had enough space for her growing book collection (four bookcases in the end), and all this in the neighbourhood of the groves and the shoreline of The Hague and Scheveningen. No wonder that she stayed there until the very end.

The Hague ultimately proved to be a good choice: quite a few well-to-do families lived there, for whom studying French was considered good form. But Anny Antoine was of course not the only one to discover this: there was so much competition that she was forced at first to take a job as a saleswoman at fashion house Maison de Paris, an engagement that was ended in the course of 1927 after a period of illness and recuperation in her parental home, in Erps-Kwerps since 1923.

After this, her fortunes changed for the better. It cost her less trouble to find students, most of whom were young ladies. An interesting detail is that she tended to pass herself of as an actual Frenchwoman; this made it easier to acquire new students. These probably came to her mostly through recommendation, for Anny Antoine was an excellent tutor: serious, methodical, but also a likeable person who knew how to make her students enthusiastic. Some of them were friends of hers, who went on trips with her on her spare time, which must have been scarce. Besides her tutoring practice of around twenty-five hours per week, she also took classes herself. She prepared for her secondary school French teaching certificate, which she obtained in 1931, to continue thereafter to study French at the university of Utrecht. She also studied Italian and Latin there, and made a serious attempt to improve her flawed Dutch, with an eye on the teaching certificate and possible translating work. Her request for being sworn as a translator still exists. Then there was her reading, and of course her writing. She liked to write mood pieces, unpretentious sketches, but also essays on literary subjects, rather schoolish at first, but later more academic in tone. This work included the thesis paper 'Corneille et Racine' for professor Valkhoff, and a treatise on the 'acte gratuit' by André Gide and others. The rest of her time was spent on simple pleasures such as walks, theatre visits, social contacts and the occasional trip. She led a full life for someone with a weak constitution who required plenty of rest.

It is deeply tragic that all of this was ended by a horrible accident. One beautiful Sunday morning, 25 June 1933, Anny Antoine was hit by the trailer of tramline 8 on her way to pier of Scheveningen. She was killed instantly, and was buried a few days later at the cemetery of Erps-Kwerps.

Anny Antoine in Biarritz, Summer of 1931
Anny Antoine in Biarritz, Summer of 1931

Anny Antoine in Biarritz, Summer of 1931

Death announcement of Anny Antoine
Death announcement of Anny Antoine

Death announcement of Anny Antoine

Funeral, from Van Speykstraat 10, The Hague (1933)
Funeral, from Van Speykstraat 10, The Hague (1933)

Funeral, from Van Speykstraat 10, The Hague (1933)

Letter from Anny Antoine to Louis Koopman (1933)
Letter from Anny Antoine to Louis Koopman (1933)

Letter from Anny Antoine to Louis Koopman (1933)

Anny Antoine and Louis Koopman engaged

Anny Antoine and Louis Koopman first met in November 1925 in The Hague, at a meeting of the Alliance française. A second encounter followed six weeks later, this time at a soirée of the Netherlands-France society. Both immediately took to each other, their mutual interest for French literature and their love for bibliophile book editions a key factor from the very start.

The surviving letters clearly show the extent to which Koopman attempted to support this Belgian girl in every possible way in the Netherlands, which remained a rather unfamiliar country to her. Her health was a major preoccupation. He encouraged her countless times to take it easy, to consider her health, to adjust her clothing and diet to the Dutch climate, and to consult her doctor. Koopman's professional interest for medical affairs undoubtedly contributed to his involvement.

Nor did he ever tire of pointing out the importance of regular studies, especially the Dutch language. This last point can be considered a pet subject: Louis clearly acted as Anny's Dutch tutor. He gave her daily language exercises by using newspaper articles that he selected based on their educational value. He also would employ idiomatic fireworks in his Dutch letters to her, which by the way were in the minority, and encouraged her to study Dutch grammar. Anny accepted all of this with the good humour that came naturally to her, sometimes mixed with mild irony, witness the sly opening of one of her letters: 'Mon cher Socrate'.

She was doubtlessly helped by the advice of her friend, who became her fiancé on 25 December 1931. Apart from this never-ending concern, which also extended to the investment of Anny’s savings, filling out her tax returns, and counselling her on the subject of how to make a real Dutch cup of coffee, highly different matters also came up: multiple appointments, Sunday lunches, usually in café-restaurant L'Espérance, travels around the Netherlands, to Erps-Kwerps and to various parts of France, theatre visits and associating with friends. In an excellent essay, Anny described an afternoon she spent with Koopman at the house of his friend, the painter Karsen. They did therefore share their lives to some extent, although Koopman did maintain his residence in Amsterdam.

The accident Anny suffered in 1933 ended this situation abruptly. After her death, Louis Koopman continued to maintain cordial relations with her parents, her brother and his wife. His affection for Emmanuel Antoine ('Père') was especially great. Louis was clearly considered a son-in-law in whom the parents saw their daughter live on. He promised them on several occasions to continue his work in Anny’s memory.

Anny Antoine and Louis Koopman
Anny Antoine and Louis Koopman

Anny Antoine and Louis Koopman

Anny Antoine and Louis Koopman
Anny Antoine and Louis Koopman

Anny Antoine and Louis Koopman

Scrapbook with Anny Antoines passport and locks of hair kept by Louis Koopman
Scrapbook with Anny Antoines passport and locks of hair kept by Louis Koopman

Scrapbook with Anny Antoines passport and locks of hair kept by Louis Koopman