CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Traum von Süden: die Niederländer malen Italien

Dreaming of the south: the Dutch paint Italy Exhibition: 11 April - 12 October 2008

Cornelis van Poelenburch, Apollo and Coronis

Cornelis van Poelenburch (1594/95-1667), Apollo and Coronis

Information from the Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna

The exhibition’s theme is the longing of northern Europeans for “the South” as the epitome of gaiety, warmth and carefree living in a utopian Arcadia, for which the real land of Italy supplied the paradigm. In the history of European art it was above all Dutch painters who established the long-standing tradition of traveling beyond the Alps, from which the tradition of painting in the “Italianate” style developed. These cheerful landscapes of southern shepherds and mythological and historical themes – inspired by Italy but ultimately springing from the artists’ imaginations – enjoyed great popularity among the public at home. Even today, the artistic merit of this aspect of Dutch art is still not properly appreciated – hence this exhibition.

Nowadays, Dutch art of the Golden Age is more than ever associated with the seemingly realistic glimpses of bourgeois domestic life that artists such as Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer have left us. The 17th-century public, however, saw things differently, distinguishing between a “dark”
style of painting – referring to Rembrandt and a host of “tonal” Dutch landscape pictures – and a “bright” style, the Italianate landscapes and populated scenes initially inspired by Italy and Rome that translated the sun-drenched world of the south into brighter colors.

The Akademie’s collection comprises a large number of these Italianate Dutch paintings, and the show will bring them together with those in the Prince of Liechtenstein’s collection. Additional highlights are numerous loans from home and abroad, in particular from Polish collections and from Sibiu, which will here be shown for the first time in Austria.

From the museum website

The museum of contemporary art in Vaduz mounts regularly special exhibitions of works from the Private Collections of the Prince
of Liechtenstein and in doing so spans a bridge to the world of the
Old Masters.

From the time of the Renaissance onwards, many artists from Northern Europe looked with longing to Italy – the land of Antiquity, of warmth and of the golden light. “In Search of the Golden Light” shows how Flemish and Dutch artists who set out for the South in the 17th century returned with landscape paintings that were suffused with sunlight.

The artistic phenomenon itself is still relatively unknown. A large number of 17th century Flemish and Dutch artists travelled to Italy so as to be able to capture the golden light of the South in their paintings. They returned home with new ideas for sunny landscapes flooded with light and, once they had settled back into the dullness of the North, even painted local landscapes in bright colours. The Dutch viewers loved these “Italianised” landscapes and the works were very much in demand on the 17th century art markets.

The exhibition is devoted to the discovery of Antiquity, the rendering of light in painting, the landscapes of the Gods, the ideal Italian landscape from a Dutch viewpoint, the backyards of the Eternal City, ports and coastal landscapes as a reflection of the longing for far-away places, and finally the classicist-pathetic tendencies of that “Italianised” landscape painting. It presents an uncluttered view of the Castel Sant Angelo in an open field, the unexcavated Forum Romanum as a cow pasture, little groups of travellers against enchanting Italian backdrops, anecdotes and everyday scenes from the shabby backyards of Rome of the time, peaceful shepherds in the gold light of evening and wanderlust-tinted scenes in southern ports.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the Picture Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts and the Liechtenstein Museum Vienna within the “Private Art Collections”, curated by Dr. Renate Trnek, director of the Picture Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts.


Traum vom Süden: die Niederländer malen Italien
Renate Trnek
Catalogue of an exhibition held in 2008 in Vienna (Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenden Künste) and Vaduz (Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein)
348 pp., 28.7 x 25 cm., 107 illustrations in color, hardbound
Ostfildern (Hatje Cantz Verlag) 2007
ISBN 978-3-7757-2105-9

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