From the museum website, 30 March 2009
This exhibition provides a rare glimpse of a rich collection of 17th-century Dutch master drawings from the Department of Prints and Drawings. With works by such artists as van Goyen, Rembrandt and van de Velde, the exhibition offers the visitor an intimate encounter with the old masters and their working methods, and provides an insight into one of the most epoch-making chapters in the history of western landscape art.
The Dutch landscape was established as a motif in its own right shortly after 1600. Of course Dutch landscape artists had long before captured their surroundings in drawn sketches, but before the 17th century, artists always idealised the way reality manifested itself in their completed artistic works. They selected the most attractive motifs from their sketches, erasing the small imperfections of reality so that the final art works were depictions of what they regarded as nature in its ideal state.
This changed in the Dutch Republic shortly after 1600, with the inception of a new ideal of nature. At this point, it became accepted that it was not the concern of the artist to perfect nature but rather to imitate reality with as much persuasive force and in as lifelike a way as possible. This naturalistic view of art was to be decisive for artists and art lovers beginning to perceive local landscape as an interesting artistic motif.
Draughtsmanship plays a central role for the naturalists. In the 17th century, almost all nature studies were drawn, resulting in local landscape being conceived of as a type of motif belonging to the art of drawing. The propagation of this motif occurred as a result of hundreds of etchings based on landscape drawings being produced in the first decade of the 17th century, and in the 1620s the local landscape finally became popular in painting.