Information from the curator, 16 May 2016
Many of the greatest works of art entered the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum as donations or bequests. As part of the Museum’s bicentenary celebrations, an exhibition of over thirty rarely seen Dutch and Flemish landscape drawings from the bequest of Sir Bruce Ingram (1877-1963) will be on display. One of the most significant British collectors of the twentieth century, Ingram was the editor of The Illustrated London News and Honorary Keeper of Drawings at the Fitzwilliam Museum. He amassed a renowned and impressive collection that reflects his passion for and knowledge of European art.
The works selected for this exhibition focus on early landscape drawings, and include delicately painted views of villages and mountains by artists including Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625). He was a member of the famous Brueghel dynasty of painters who were active in the Spanish Netherlands, now Belgium. Jan’s father Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a pivotal figure in the development of landscape painting. He inspired his contemporaries to view the natural world around them as an independent subject and not just a setting for historical or religious narratives, as illustrated in the exhibition through highly detailed drawings by the Flemish artist Hans Bol (1534-93).
The exhibition also includes one of the earliest known pure landscapes of the Flemish countryside by the so-called Master of the Small Landscapes, who was active in the Southern Netherlands around 1560. High viewpoints and mountainous terrain came to characterise the work of other Flemish artists such as Brueghel, Paul Bril and Joos de Momper.
From 1568 the mainly Protestant provinces in the north fought against Catholic Spanish rule. The war eventually ended in 1648 when the north became recognised as the independent Dutch Republic. During these decades of turmoil many Protestant artists in the south fled north in fear of religious persecution, taking the new subject of landscape painting with them. This in turn encouraged Dutch artists including Abraham Bloemaert, Esaias van de Velde and Jan van Goyen to sketch the country’s lowlands, sand dunes, inland waterways and rustic cottages from life, with a newfound pride and focus.