CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Thuis bij Ter Borch: tekeningen uit het Rijksmuseum

At home with Ter Borch: drawings from the Rijksmuseum Exhibition: 10 June - 4 September 2005

From the museum website

Gerard ter Borch the Younger (1617-1681) is one of Holland’s greatest 17th-century masters. He is renowned for his virtuoso technique, his psychological insight and his feeling for intimacy. Not many people know that he came from an artistic family. From 10 June to 4 September the Rembrandt House Museum exhibits around eighty drawings by this extraordinary family. On show are works by Gerard the Elder, Gerard the Younger, his half brothers Harmen and Moses, and his half sister Gesina. The exhibition is organized in association with the Rijksmuseum’s Printroom, which holds the Ter Borchs’ complete workshop legacy. The exhibition offers a representative overview of the most important drawings in the workshop legacy of the Ter Borch family. Special attention is being devoted to the way the artistically gifted members of the family were trained to be artists.

The story of the Ter Borchs begins with Gerard ter Borch the Elder (1582/83-1661). His ambition was to make his living as a painter. He travelled to Italy to see the architecture and sculpture of classical antiquity for himself. He drew cityscapes and landscapes in and around Rome and Naples that showed an undeniable talent for reproducing the visible reality. After his return to the Netherlands he changed his subjects to biblical, mythological and mildly erotic scenes. Around 1635 he stopped practising art, but he went on to play a great role in developing the artistic skills of his children.

By far the best-known member of the Ter Borch family is his son Gerard the Younger. Whereas Gerard the Elder himself drew less and less, he kept a close eye on the artistic accomplishments of his eldest son. Ter Borch the Elder meticulously annotated the drawings of the younger Ter Borch with comments and dates. The earliest drawing is dated 25 September 1625. From that moment on we are able to follow every step of the artistic development of Gerard the Younger from gifted boy to fully qualified master-a unique opportunity in the history of 17th-century Dutch art.

The third marriage of Ter Borch the Elder produced three children, Gesina, Harmen and Moses, who also became skilled in drawing: Gesina (1631-1690) played an important role in the family history; she not only drew and painted but she was also frequently used as a model. In addition to this it is thanks to her that the artistic legacy of the Ter Borchs has been preserved. She put her father’s and her brothers’ work in albums.

Gerard’s brother Harmen (1638-1677) drew scenes from the lives of children in the 17th-century. He only drew until he was sixteen, at which point he stopped abruptly. As to what the youngest son Moses (1645-1667) might have become, had his artistic skills come into full bloom, we can only speculate. It is clear that a number of Moses’ drawings, mostly portraits of his father, mother and sister and his self-portraits, show a talent that equals that of Gerard the Younger. But sadly, around the age of twenty, Moses chose the turmoil of war over art; he signed on and joined the Dutch navy. Shortly after the successful Dutch raid on the Medway, known as the Battle of Chatham, he was killed in a skirmish with the English off the coast near Harwich. He was only twenty-two years old.

Related events

Running concurrently with the exhibition in the Rembrandt House Museum, there is an exhibition of paintings by the younger Gerard ter Borch in the Philips Wing of the Rijksmuseum. It will present a representative overview of the work of this 17th-century master under the title Sparkling satin: the best of Gerard ter Borch.