From the museum website, 20 April 2011
Artists and their workshops in 19th-century Dutch painting
The notion of the artist’s studio as a mythical place has essentially been shaped by the 19th century. In reaction to the profound social and technological changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution, a growing number of artists started producing romantic self-portrayals with which they asserted the uniqueness and social relevance of artistic creation.
Two antithetical stereotypes emerged – initially, the ambitious socialite entertaining his wealthy clients and artist friends in a lavish workshop brimming with exotic trinkets and later on the destitute Bohemian dedicating his life to art in his sparsely furnished den.
The exhibition Studio Myths gathers a collection of 19th-century Dutch paintings to explore representations of artists and their workplaces that have left a lasting impression on the collective mind of the European public.
Through a series of paintings and drawings by renowned painters such as George Hendrik Breitner, Isaac Israels, Jan Toorop and Barend Cornelis Koekkoek, it provides viewers with a lively impression of the working environment of Dutch artists from that time. It furthermore offers an insight into the daily routine of artistic production by presenting various historic painting materials and tools alongside a full-scale reproduction of the studio of the Dutch history painter Christoffel Bisschop.
The exhibition also sheds a light on the women who posed for some of these artists and have thus become legends in their own right. Besides a series of portraits of the painters’ “favourite models”, it lets viewers discover the practical aspects of nude painting. The survey is rounded off by a section retracing the main developments in 19th-century art on the backdrop of general technological progress, among others by highlighting the durable impact of photography on painterly practice.
While the myth of the artist’s studio continues to be largely inspired by models developed in the 19th century, this should not obscure the fact that even “Old Masters” such as Rubens and Rembrandt had shown great skills in capitalising on their “public image”. By turning its attention to the complex aspects of this iconography, the exhibition Studio Myths also aims to deconstruct one of the most enduring clichés of artistic (self-)representation.