CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Rembrandt and the Golden Age: masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum

Exhibition: 24 September 2006 - 7 January 2007

Rembrandt, Musical allegory. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Rembrandt, Allegory of Music, 1626
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

From the museum website

In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Rembrandt’s birth, The Dayton Art Institute presents the American premier of Rembrandt and the Gold Age of Dutch art: treasures from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Opening September 24, 2006, The Dayton Art Institute is one of only three U.S. museums to offer this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see rare Dutch masterpieces while the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam undergoes an extensive renovation and expansion project.

Following its American debut in Dayton, the exhibition travels to the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, Arizona and the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon. For more than two years, all three museums have been involved in a unique collaboration with the director, Professor Ronald de Leeuw, and the curatorial staff of the Rijksmuseum to make this extraordinary exhibition available to the American public.

About the exhibition

Works of art in the exhibition include objects that the Rijksmuseum will consent to lend only on very rare occasions, such as the current renovation, rebuilding and restoration of the Rijksmuseum’s main building, scheduled for completion in mid-2008. Notable masterpieces in the show include Rembrandt’s self-portrait, his portrait of his wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh, and Frans Hals’ portrait of Nicolaes Hasselaer.

The exhibition also includes a number of striking self-portraits not only by Rembrandt, but also by Jan Steen, Adriaen van der Werff and Gerard Dou. Portraits of the artists by their fellow painters are also included. These paintings offer a fascinating opportunity to see the individual artist, his working environment and living conditions.

A selection of still life paintings demonstrates the subjects and painting techniques for which Dutch painting is so famous. Pieter Claesz was one of the most prominent painters in this appealing and still-popular genre, and is represented by Still life from 1647. Still life with flowers, a masterpiece by painter Rachel Ruysch, underscores the fact that the Dutch Republic could boast several female painters who produced work of high quality for an international clientele.

The Dutch landscape inspired many generations of artists. Outstanding examples of these landscapes include Jan van Goyen’s View of a town on a river and Jacob van Ruisdael’s Rocky landscape.

Many Dutch painters drew inspiration from the art of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573-1610), the great innovator working in Rome who made chiaroscuro – the contrasting effect of light and dark – the principal means of expression in his art. Hendrick Ter Brugghen’s powerful Doubting Thomas assimilates Caravaggio’s style in his dramatic rendition of this religious theme. Rembrandt, too, used Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro technique in his dramatic Denial of Peter.

Some Dutch artists profited not only by creating portraits commissioned by the wealthy members of society but also from paintings of country houses owned by their patrons. These elegant renderings of the upper class, however, are a stark contrast to the outdoor scenes and interiors portraying the daily lives of peasants. Dutch painting also reflected the private sphere of hearth and home. Nicolaes Maes’ Woman spinning, for example, creates an intimate look at home life while capturing the simple beauty of an everyday activity.

The prosperity of Dutch society in the 17th century is also seen in decorative arts objects from the Rijksmuseum collection. Spectacular silver showpieces, including a ewer made by Utrecht silversmith Adam van Vianen, are displayed in the exhibition. These traditional objects gave way to silver objects designed more like sculptures. Other decorative arts objects on display include sculptures, delftware and several examples of glass.

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