CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Pieter Saenredam, het Utrechtse werk: tekeningen en schilderijen van de 17de-eeuwse grootmeester van het perspectief

Pieter Saenredam, the Utrecht works: drawings and paintings by the 17th-century past master of perspective Exhibition: 4 November 2000 - 4 February 2001

From the museum website, 2 March 2009

Pieter Jansz. Saenredam (Assendelft 1597-1665 Haarlem) is one of the most remarkable 17th-century painters. In the year 1628 he took a decision to devote the rest of his life to painting “perspectives”. Saenredam kept his word, and developed into the Master of perspective.

The finest architectural paintings of the seventeenth century

In 1636 Saenredam worked in Utrecht for twenty weeks at a stretch. During this period he was drawing the city”s mediaeval churches. He took measurements, made technical drawings and sketched the fronts and interiors of the churches, which in many cases were in danger of being demolished. In the following years he worked the drawings and preliminary studies into the finest architectural paintings of the seventeenth century, which even today provide a source of inspiration for many artists and designers. To be seen in the exhibition are at least 15 of the 21 paintings that have been preserved and 40 or so drawings which Saenredam made of the Utrecht churches. The panels, which are extremely valuable and easily damaged, come from leading collections at home and abroad and from private owners.

Work methods

The exhibition exposes the unusual and innovative work methods employed by Saenredam in some detail. Saenredam was the first to show what the church interior really looked like. Painting a correct “church portrait” demanded a new method of work which Saenredam developed with the surveyor Pieter Wils. On the basis of the measurements which he made on the spot he produced a detailed drawing of the church building. With this comprehensive sketch, separately drawn up details, and a floor plan he went back to his workshop to continue work. The sketch which Saenredam had made on the spot was reproduced on the panel with the help of a so-called construction drawing, and after that had been done he started painting. In his paintings he manipulated the spaces to such an extent that they appeared to be more monumental than they actually were in reality. Saenredam”s innovative work method will be made clear in the exhibition.


Pieter Saenredam, het Utrechtse werk: schilderijen en tekeningen van de 17de-eeuwse grootmeester van het perspectief
Liesbeth M. Helmus, with contributions by Arie de Groot, Geraldine van Heemstra and Michiel C. Plomp
Catalogue of an exhibition held in 2000-01 in Utrecht (Centraal Museum) and in 2002 in Los Angeles (Getty Museum)
304 pp., 31 cm.
Utrecht (Centraal Museum) 2000
ISBN 90-73285-70-4 (hardbound)

English edition: Pieter Saenredam, the Utrecht work: paintings and drawings by the 17th-century master of perspective
Los Angeles (Getty Museum) 2002
ISBN 0-89236-665-6 (hardbound)

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