CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

The motions of the mind: representing the passions in the arts of the early modern Netherlands

symposium: 17 November - 18 November 2006

Organizing institutions

Queen’s University and Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Conference organizers

Stephanie Dickey (designated holder of the Bader Chair in Northern Baroque Art, Queen’s University, Kingston)
David de Witt (Bader Curator of European Art, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston)
Franziska Gottwald, PhD. candidate, Free University Berlin

Information from the organizers

Historians of southern European art have paid considerable attention to the representation of emotions, psychological presence and interiority in portraits and history paintings of the early modern period. Avenues of investigation include the connection to literary traditions as well as the aspiration of artists to demonstrate the expressive potential of their art and their individual talent in this area. There is, however, no similarly extensive discussion about the depiction of the passions in Dutch and Flemish art. Yet the most prominent Dutch artist, Rembrandt, has always been famous for depicting the “inner life” of the protagonists in his history paintings, portraits and tronies. Already in his own time Constantijn Huygens praised Rembrandt for his depiction of the expressions of the human face. A variety of recent studies have emphasized his evocation of the inner life and spiritual existence of his figures. At the same time, other Dutch artists from Lastman to Lairesse were developing practical and theoretical strategies for the representation of human interiority. The 400th anniversary of Rembrandt’s birth in 2006 provides an occasion to examine the rendering of the passions in Rembrandt’s oeuvre and its historical context: the activities of Dutch and Flemish artists of the early modern period (ca. 1500-1750) who shared an interest in depicting the “motions of the mind.”

Program (pdf)

Related events

The symposium will take place in conjunction with the exhibition Wrought
emotions: Renaissance and Baroque paintings from the permanent collection
at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. There will be a study tour through the gallery with the Bader Curator of European Art Dr. David de Witt on Saturday, November 18, and a visit to the vaults on Sunday, November 19, 2006.