CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Drawing life: the Dutch visual tradition

Exhibition: 24 November 2009 - 28 February 2010

From the museum press release, 10 November 2009

The 17th century is often referred to as the Dutch Golden Age because it was a time of increasing political freedom, religious tolerance, and economic prosperity that resulted in a boom of artistic patronage and production. A newly flourishing art market prompted artists to create finished drawings that captured in subtle detail all the delight found in their native land with its bustling cities, rustic countryside, and placid waterways. In the 18th century, Dutch artists capitalized on the popular genres established by their predecessors, and continued to draw these subjects in perpetual reference to a golden age, even as the Dutch Republic began to experience political unrest and declined as a world economic power.

Drawing Life: The Dutch Visual Tradition, on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, November 24, 2009 – February 28, 2010, traces the invention of new genres and their enduring popularity through works by Hendrik Avercamp, Gerrit van Battem, Nicolaes Berchem, Aelbert Cuyp, Lambert Doomer, Jan van Kessel, Paulus van Liender, Isack van Ostade, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jacob van Ruisdael, Abraham Rutgers, and Jacob van Strij from the Getty’s in-depth collection of 17th-century and recently expanded collection of 18th-century Dutch drawings. The exhibition complements the premiere presentation Drawings by Rembrandt and his Pupils, by showcasing additional works by Rembrandt in the Getty’s collection as well as drawings by his Dutch contemporaries and the generation of artists that followed. In addition, works by many of these artists can be found in the Museum’s Dutch paintings galleries, thus providing visitors with the opportunity to see an impressive array of work by the great masters of the Dutch Golden Age.

In the 1600s, Dutch artists expanded their repertoire of traditional portraiture and biblical narratives to frequently portray their native land with its rustic ruins, majestic woods, and vast panoramas. These landscapes were complemented by scenes of everyday life in which shepherds smiled, peasants frolicked, merchants ice-skated, and cows rested. The exhibition
illustrates genres whose popularity persisted in the 18th century. Highlights include:

Hendrick Avercamp
A Winter Scene with Two Gentleman Playing Kolf, about 1615–1620
Avercamp helped popularize such landscapes with figures enjoying ice skating or the popular sport of kolf beneath a gray winter sky. While the scene is primarily playful in nature, it also suggests the Dutch notion of de slibberachtigheyt van’s menschen leven or “the slipperiness of human life,” to remind viewers of life’s brevity. Subjects reflecting life’s uncertainty were popular in post-Reformation Holland, where religious painting had nearly disappeared.

Aelbert Cuyp
A Milkmaid, about 1640–1650
Peasants and cows were popular subjects during this period. In Cuyp’s Milkmaid, he focuses on her youthful charm, as she engages the viewer with a direct gaze. He emphasizes her sturdy frame through soft folds of her skirt around her body and uses only a few lines to suggest the large body of the cow looming above her.

Isack van Ostade
View of Eindhoven from the Northeast, 1645
In this scene, van Ostade creates a picturesque view of rural Eindhoven, depicting rustic dilapidated buildings covered by lacy foliage. The application of colored washes together with the delicate penwork gives the farming village a certain poetic charm.

Jacob van Ruisdael
Dead Tree by a Stream at the Foot of a Hill, about 1650–1660
The aged tree was a long-standing theme in Dutch landscape imagery, but in Ruisdael’s hands it became a very personal expression. Ruisdael focused this composition around a hollow tree whose bare limbs reach upward: a heroic element in the landscape. Its lifeless skeleton symbolizes the transience of human life, a favorite Ruisdael theme.

Drawing Life: The Dutch Visual Tradition will be on view in the West Pavilion of the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, November 24, 2009 through February 28, 2010 and is curated by Stephanie Schrader, associate curator of drawings at the Getty Museum. In an adjacent gallery, the Getty will present Recent Drawings Acquisitions in Context, from November 17, 2009 through February 28, 2010.

During the early 17th century, Flemish artists produced drawn landscapes that were more stylized and idealized than those by their Dutch
counterparts. This exhibition will contextualize two recent acquisitions: Lucas Achtschellinck’s A Wooded Landscape with a Path to a House (about 1640–1650) and Tobias Verhaecht’s An Extensive Estuary Lanscape with the Story of a Mercury and Herse (about 1610) with their contemporaries Roelandt Savery, Pieter Stevens, and Denys van Alsloot.