CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

The Dutch interior

: 2 January - 30 January 2005

From the museum website

In conjunction with the exhibition Rembrandt’s late religious portraits, on view in the newly reinstalled Dutch galleries of the West Building, January 30 through May 1, 2005, the Gallery will offer a variety of related activities.

A series of five lecture programs on domestic aspects of Dutch life and culture in the 17th-century Golden Age. Vermeer, Rembrandt, and many other artists have created evocative images of the Dutch interior. These lectures explore how the depiction of homes, churches, and civic institutions reflected contemporary beliefs and behavior.

Practical information

Sundays, January 2-30, 2005, 2:00 p.m in the East Building Auditorium. Admission to the Gallery is free, and all programs are free unless otherwise noted; seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. For more information, call +1 202 737 4215 or visit the museum website.


January 2
Love and the private sphere in seventeenth-century Dutch genre painting, H. Rodney Nevitt Jr., associate professor of art history, University of Houston

January 9
Noises and silences in Dutch paintings of manners, Mariët Westermann, director, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

January 16
Portraits and personalities, Stephanie Dickey, associate professor of art history, Herron School of Art, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

January 23
Inside the artist’s studio, H. Perry Chapman, professor of art history, University of Delaware

January 30 (Exhibition opening day lectures)
Rembrandt’s late religious portraits, Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., exhibition curator and curator of Northern Baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art
Rembrandt’s late style, Ernst van de Wetering of the Rembrandt Research Project, Amsterdam


Seventeenth-century Holland was one of the most extraordinary nations in Europe. Nominally, it was ruled by representatives of the Orange dynasty, an aristocratic line that had spearheaded the struggle of the nation for independence from the Habsburg-controlled Southern Netherlands. Yet the political, economic, religious, and cultural life of this Protestant republic was governed by its prosperous merchant class.

With much of their wealth dependent on trade with neighboring or far-off lands, the Dutch burghers were accustomed to dialoguing with numerous, often competing parties. At the same time, as inhabitants of some of the most densely urbanized cities of Europe, they were also remarkably accepting of the different “voices” within their community, whether in terms of social class or religious belief.

The spirit of tolerance and negotiation extended to artistic developments. In no other European country during the seventeenth century did so many artists work for so many different patrons and explore a greater range of pictorial genres, from the most elevated themes to the humblest subject matters, such as still lifes and scenes of everyday life. An appreciation for different subjects and styles, as well as for individual interpretations and points of view, became the artistic currency of the day.

This series of lectures addresses the interest of artists, as well as patrons, in exploring the realm between public and private life, between the “exterior” and “interior,” between socially determined roles and individual identity. This theme in Dutch painting is presented in a variety of genres, from representations of quiet domestic spaces where a woman might be attending to her motherly duties or a man might be absorbed in writing a letter, to portraits that exude a sense of authority and individuality, even when the beholder knows that the subject cannot be identified beyond the moniker “apostle” or “man in an oriental costume.”

Each speaker investigates the question of “interiority” from a particular perspective. Rodney Nevitt addresses the quintessentially private theme of love and its representations throughout the seventeenth century, from more socially codified scenes of courtship rituals, toward those that highlight the complexity of individuals’ emotions. Stephanie S. Dickey considers the manner in which artists of the period balanced the “public” and the “private” realms in the genre of portraiture: the ways in which a portrait could express readily identifiable social qualities through the pose, bearing, gesture, and dress of the sitter, and at the same time represent an unmistakable physical likeness endowed with an individual character.

H. Perry Chapman focuses her presentation on the artist’s studio, particularly with the relationship between the public persona and the inner self. She argues that while most of the treatments of this subject, whether as self-portraits or in ostensibly more neutral scenes of artists at work, achieve a deceptively lifelike quality, they are thoroughly imbued with art-theoretical ideas about the role of the painter and the nature of his artistic creations. Mariët Westermann focuses her attention on narrative ambiguities in scenes of daily life, a pictorial strategy that draws the beholder into the represented event, yet never allows for a full disclosure of its meaning.

The series concludes with two lectures focusing on Rembrandt van Rijn, a painter synonymous with the idea of the private self. Ernst van de Wetering discusses the late style of this master, inviting us to contemplate the individuality of his fluid brushstrokes and the highly expressive textures of his pictorial creations. Arthur K. Wheelock discusses the interpretive challenges in Rembrandt’s late portraits, which are, paradoxically, born out of the very quality that earned this master undivided praise even during his lifetime — his exceptional portrayal of the inner workings of the soul of the sitter.