CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Dutch and French Genre Drawings from the Robert Lehman Collection

Exhibition: 5 February - 28 April 2013

This exhibition considers the development and transformation of genre scenes in the Netherlands and France over three centuries. The term genre, coined by the French critic Quatremère de Quincy in 1791, is derived from the French word for “kind” or “type” and generally refers to scenes of everyday life. In the seventeenth century, the booming mercantile economy of the newly independent Dutch Republic gave rise to a prosperous middle class. Artists shifted their focus to subjects that had wide appeal and catered to the desire of these new patrons of the arts to see their lives reflected in the works they collected: views of markets, taverns, domestic settings, and local industries, often enlivened by humorous characters and witty anecdotes. Dutch genre scenes often conveyed moral warnings about the brevity of life, overindulgence, and promiscuity. A century later, French artists created their own type of genre scenes depicting leisure pastimes and domesticity, often with romantic overtones. In the nineteenth century, they focused on the bustle of modern life and rare moments of quietude.