CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

New light on Old Masters: research on Northern European and Spanish paintings before 1600 in the Art Institute

Exhibition: 26 June - 14 September 2008

Workshop of Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Paradise. Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago

Workshop of Hieronymus Bosch (ca. 1450-1516), Garden of Paradise
Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago

Museum information

This exhibition presents fascinating insights revealed in the recently published catalogue Northern European and Spanish paintings before 1600 in the Art Institute of Chicago. Showcasing the results of innovative technological research, the exhibition closely examines a select part of the museum’s collection of Old Master paintings, exploring how these works were created, collected, and displayed.

The paintings studied date from an important period of change in the history of European painting, one that saw the transition from the medieval craft tradition to the Renaissance notion of the painter as a self-conscious creator. Themes that emerge from this detailed study include the function of altarpieces; the growing influence of the open market on the production of paintings; and the ways that pictures made for private devotional use fit into this open market.

Many of the exhibition’s discoveries came to light through technical study of the pictures, using both well-known and more innovative methods. Illustrated text panels accompany each exhibited work, and an interactive computer station enables visitors to zoom into images of selected works and to shift back and forth between x-radiographs and underdrawings visible in infrared light.


Northern European and Spanish paintings before 1600 in the Art Institute of Chicago: a catalogue of the collection
Martha Wolff, editor, written by her, Susan Frances Jones, Richard G. Mann and Judith Berg Sobré, with contributions by Ilse Hecht, Peter Klein, Cynthia Kuniej Berry and Larry Silver
Collection catalogue of museum holdings in early Netherlandish and Spanish painting. Publication marked by an exhibition held in 2008 in Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago)
476 pp., 8 1/4 x 11 1/4 in., 123 illustrations in color and 233 in duotone
Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago) and New Haven and London (Yale University Press) 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-300-11944-2
ISBN-10: 0-300-11944-5

From the website of Yale University Press

This important volume documents the Art Institute of Chicago’s significant––yet relatively unknown––collection of English, French, German, Netherlandish, and Spanish paintings created before 1600. Over 100 altarpieces, private devotional works, portraits, and landscapes by such masters as Lucas Cranach, Gerard David, El Greco, Jan Gossaert, and Rogier van der Weyden receive their first in-depth analysis.

With its accessible entries and beautiful illustrations, this publication reflects the most up-to-date scholarship. New conservation investigations, including the study of under-drawing and of wood supports, illuminate many issues surrounding these paintings.

Martha Wolff is Eleanor Wood Prince Curator of European Painting before 1750 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Susan Frances Jones, assistant professor at Caldwell College, was Old Masters Society Curatorial Fellow at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1998 to 2002. Richard G. Mann is professor in the School of Creative Arts at San Francisco State University. Judith Berg Sobré is professor in the department of art and art history at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The late Ilse Hecht was adjunct associate curator of German painting at the Art Institute of Chicago.