From the museum website
“In Boston today, collecting Dutch paintings is alive and well. We can boast about a dozen private collections in which Dutch art is either well represented or provides the main focus. Some of the collections are encyclopedic while others concentrate on specific aspects of Dutch painting. The exhibition, consisting of approximately sixty works, illustrates as many types of seventeenth-century Dutch painting as possible.”
From the museum website, text by Ronni Baer
Many seventeenth-century Dutch paintings were made for a newly wealthy middle class and were of a size, subject, and scale appropriate to the rooms of their homes. Unlike much of the rest of contemporary Europe, there were few art commissions, either from the church—which, in The Netherlands, was predominantly Protestant—or from the state, since the newly formed republic was ruled by an oligarchy rather than the monarchy prevalent elsewhere. Painters worked for the open market, producing unprecedented numbers of high-quality landscapes, still lifes, and genre scenes for private use.
Tradition has it that there was a natural attraction of the young American republic to the seventeenth-century Dutch; shared concepts of democracy, religious freedom, the rise of the middle class, and a Protestant work ethic underline the “elective affinities” perceived between the two nations. The history of collecting Dutch paintings in Boston extends back at least to the late eighteenth century, at which time such works formed part of collections that also included French, Italian, and English paintings. A taste for Dutch art was also consonant with nineteenth-century contemporary painting: French realist works by Millet and Corot, avidly collected by Bostonians in the Museum’s early years, hark back to the unelevated subjects of their Dutch predecessors.
In Boston today, collecting Dutch paintings is alive and well. We can boast about a dozen private collections in which Dutch art is either well represented or provides the main focus. Some of the collections are encyclopedic while others concentrate on specific aspects of Dutch painting. The exhibition, consisting of approximately sixty works, illustrates as many types of seventeenth-century Dutch painting as possible. There are landscapes, including the ever-popular winter scenes and works by the Italianates that capture the golden glow of southern light; cityscapes and church interiors; animal paintings and seascapes. Portraits number among them images the artist made of himself and commissions that depict an entire family. Genre scenes, both lowlife and high life, produced early and late in the century, and various types of still life—flowers, fruit, tobaccos, shells—are included as well. There are even a few Dutch history paintings.
In addition to the breadth and diversity of Dutch painting, the exhibition allows a study of the development of an individual subject over time. For example, it will be clear that the additive landscapes of the ’teens were replaced by tonal landscapes in the 1620s and ’30s. These, in turn, gave way to a reintroduction of color and a new breadth of space in the landscapes of the 1640s, which became increasingly monumental after mid-century. In the later years of the century, the lighter colors and delicate mood prefigure developments in eighteenth century landscape painting. Finally, the exhibition provides the opportunity to examine in depth the contribution of the Netherlands’ greatest landscape painter of the seventeenth century, Jacob van Ruisdael.
The poetry of everyday life: Dutch painting in Boston
Ronni Baer and Emiko K. Usui
Catalogue of exhibition held in 2002 in Boston (Museum of Fine Arts)
Boston (MFA Publications) 2002
ISBN 0-87846-631-2 (hardbound)
ISBN 0-87846-645-2 (paperbound)