Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen
From the museum website
Our special exhibition Der zauber des alltäglichen brings everyday seventeenth-century Holland back to life, providing insight into the splendid epoch known as the “Golden Age.” Altogether seventy-six paintings by twenty-two artists have been brought together for this presentation – loans from museums in Germany and abroad, as well as works from our own holdings.
Four major works by Jan Vermeer form the highlight of the exhibition. Along with The Geographer – a masterpiece of the Städel collection –, Woman Writing a Letter from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Woman with a Lute from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Love Letter from the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum are all on view.
The eight works by Adriaen Brouwer – a painter of peasant scenes already highly renowned during his lifetime – cover a gamut of emotions, and the rage, pain and malignant glee of his rough-and-tumble characters are still a delight to the beholder today.
Gerard ter Borch is also represented by several outstanding examples of his art, views portraying the lifestyle of Holland’s elegant society: shining silks, fluffy furs and softly glowing pearls speak of joie de vivre and personal vanity alike.
Then we encounter the genre scenes so perceptively described by Jan Steen, poking sharply pointed fun at the follies of human life. The disorderly Steen household is still proverbial in Holland today.
In the paintings by Pieter de Hooch – frequently used today as models for film sets and reconstructions of everyday life in the seventeenth century – meticulously polished tiles and furniture catch the light that floods the interiors of the upper-class society.
The political, economic and social upheavals of seventeenth-century Holland led to a gradual secularization of artistic taste. The focus of painting – formerly directed towards religious subjects – now widened to include depictions of everyday themes conveying the new self-image of the aspiring bourgeoisie. The cheerful interiors and scenes of upper-class life mirror the habits and customs of a past society, but not without the occasional hint at its moral hypocrisies.
The exhibition takes us on a journey through a world much like our own, a world of prosperity countered by a sense of imminent crisis. Again and again, we find occasion for comparison and contemplation – generously interspersed with the enjoyment of discovery and the pleasure of a good laugh.
Jeroen Giltaij, with contributions by Alexandra Gaba-Van Dongen, Peter Hecht and others, Der Zauber des Alltäglichen: holländische Malerei von Adriaen Brouwer bis Johannes Vermeer
256 pp., 260 illustrations, of which 110 in color
Clothbound, with dust jacket
Published in Ostfildern (Hantje Cantz Verlag) 2004