The work of one of Rembrandt’s most talented pupils is under the spotlight at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts this autumn as the gallery places one of its best-loved pictures in context.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the birth of Govert Flinck, and Flinck in Focus is one of two exhibitions this autumn exploring this supremely talented, yet under-appreciated artist. It is believed to be the first ever exhibition outside of Flinck’s birth-town of Cleves (Germany) to examine any aspect of his work.
Trained for a year in Rembrandt’s studio, Flinck grew to be extremely successful and his work much prized, making a name for himself with his history painting and portraiture. In his lifetime, Flinck’s reputation even eclipsed that of Rembrandt.
Flinck’s Portrait of a Boy of 1640, recently returned from conservation, is a charming, full-length likeness of a child thought to be around eight years old, dressed in a sober, adult costume but with a mischievous half-smile playing on his lips. Documentary evidence indicates he was David Leeuw, a cousin of the artist and, like him, at this time a member of the puritanical Mennonite congregation.
This compact exhibition, with loans of works by Flinck and his contemporaries from the Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam, the National Gallery, London, the British Museum, and other UK collections, explores wealth of subjects and themes related to the Barber’s masterpiece. It examines the sitter’s and the artist’s family connections and biographies, as well as the fascinating later ownership history of the Barber portrait. It looks at conventions of child portraiture in the Dutch Golden Age, and at how society and religion affected costume and the conventions of its depiction. The display also provides a summary account of the technical analysis of the painting, carried out in this summer’s conservation, providing fascinating insights into Flinck’s technique.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated 24-page booklet, providing further context to the exhibition, as well as a full program of lectures and gallery talks, children’s art workshops and a writing workshop for adults, which extends into the new year.