That same year, Rob Graafland was recruited, along with others, as a drawing tutor. This Maastricht-born painter was to become a major figure on the art scene in Maastricht and Limburg. In Amsterdam, he simultaneously attended the Rijksnormaalschool voor Teekenonderwijzers (national school for teachers of drawing) and the Quellinusschool, the latter founded by architect Pierre Cuypers with a view to the construction of the Rijksmuseum, and the predecessor of the present-day Rietveld Academie. From 1895, he studied painting at the Rijksacademie (national academy) under August Allebé and Carel Dake. His application in Maastricht was supported by a letter of recommendation from the sculptor Willem Molkenboer, director of the Rijksnormaalschool.
Among his colleagues were the sculptor Frans van de Laar and architect Willem Sprenger. Sprenger built a number of villas in the new Villapark Sint-Pieter; starting out in the workshops of Pierre Cuypers and the restoration of medieval towers in Maastricht, he had collaborated with Victor de Stuers. At the time, Maastricht was almost entirely bereft of a cultural scene. As well as painting, Rob Graafland also taught music and literature. This introduced brothers Mathias and Pierre Kemp to the ‘little poems’ of Guido Gezelle which would greatly influence their literary development.
In 1901, together with the Stadsteekeninstituut, Graafland founded the Zondagsschool voor Decoratieve Kunsten (Sunday school for decorative arts), also known as the Zondagsschilderschool (Sunday painting school) Graafland had begun working on this project in November 1899, but it was not until the meeting of the Stadsteekeninstituut on 26 November 1901 that it became a reality. This painting course – the Zondagsschool voor Decoratieve Kunsten (Zondagsschilderschool) – ran in the morning and was taught, in his studio, by Rob Graafland, who selected the most talented students. Among them were Edmond Bellefroid, Jean Grégoire, Charles Hollman, Han Jelinger, Henri Jonas and Joep Nicolas. During winter, Graafland and his students also painted in the Augustinian Church; in summer, they painted in nature ‘en plein air.’ From 1911, they painted in Graafland's Italian garden at Sint-Pieter near Maastricht. This group was also known as ‘The Graafland class.’
In 1910, together with colleagues and students Graafland founded the Limburgsche Kunstkring (Limburg Art Circle), a group dedicated to mutual collaboration and emancipation from the Church and industry (mainly mining) and their increasing sway over Limburg society. From this emerged what is known as the Limburg (or Maastricht) School, its leading lights including Henri Jonas, Charles Eyck and Joep Nicolas, all of whom completed their studies in Amsterdam (with, respectively, Antoon Derkinderen and Rik Roland Holst). They gave artistic expression to the Catholic emancipation in the Netherlands.