CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Jan Lievens: a Dutch master rediscovered

Exhibition: 7 February - 26 April 2009

From the museum website, 12 January 2009

Jan Lievensā€™ enigmatic career and relationship with Rembrandt van Rijn are reconsidered in an exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

History has not been kind to Jan Lievens (1607ā€“1674). A child prodigy whose talent was prized by connoisseurs and collectors in his native Leiden during his teenage years, whose services were sought by princely patrons in The Hague and London before he reached age twenty-five, and who later in life continued to receive important religious, civic, and portrait commissions in Antwerp, Amsterdam, and Berlin. Lievens barely registers today in the public consciousness.

Because Lievens and Rembrandt (1606-1669) were born in Leiden just over a year apart, studied with the same master, and lived near one another, their names are forever conjoined. It is evident that as aspiring artists, they developed a symbiotic relationship that benefited them both. Nevertheless, Rembrandtā€™s posthumous fame as the greatest artist of the Dutch golden age has left Lievens in his shadow, described as a follower or student, even though Lievens began his career some years before his compatriot. Owing to Lievensā€™ peripatetic mode of living after leaving Leiden and his resultant international style of painting, a number of his best works were later attributed to Rembrandt, as well as to other artists. Fortunately, these false attributions are being corrected, and Lievensā€™ early paintings are now better known, with the brashness of his vision and the boldness of his brushwork seen as rivaling Rembrandtā€™s during the formative period of their careers. It is argued that in many respects, Lievens was the initiator of the stylistic and thematic developments that characterized both artistsā€™ work in the late 1620s.

This exhibition, organized by the National Gallery of Art, in association with the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam, for the first time, presents an overview of the full range of Lievensā€™ career, and a long overdue reassessment of his artistic contribution. It will include about forty-five of his finest paintingsā€”memorable character studies, genre scenes, landscapes, formal portraits, and religious and allegorical imagesā€”drawn from collections in England, Europe, and America, as well as some eighty drawings and prints.


– Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, national sponsor of the exhibition
– Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, indemnity


Jan Lievens: a Dutch master rediscovered
Arthur K. Wheelock, with contributions by E. Melanie Gifford, Lloyd DeWitt, Gregory Rubinstein, Jaap van der Veen and Stephanie S. Dickey
Catalogue of an exhibition held in 2008-09 in Washington (National Gallery of Art) and in 2009 in Milwaukee (Milwaukee Art Museum) and Amsterdam (Museum het Rembrandthuis)
320 pp., hardcover
New Haven (Yale University Press) 2008
ISBN-13: 978-03-0014-213-6


Article about the identification of Rembrandt’s face on paintings by Lievens

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