NEW YORK, NY.-
Bolstered by its recent political independence, economic prosperity, and maritime supremacy, the Dutch Republic witnessed an artistic flourishing during the seventeenth century, known as the Dutch Golden Age. The Morgan Library & Museum
presents over ninety drawings by some of the preeminent artists of the periodamong them Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn and his followers Ferdinand Bol and Gerbrand van den Eeckhout; Abraham Bloemaert; Aelbert Cuyp; and Jan van Goyenin an exhibition titled Rembrandts World: Dutch Drawings from the Clement C. Moore Collection, on view from January 20 through April 29, 2012.
The Dutch Republic of the seventeenth century was a federation of seven states-Holland, Zeeland, Gelderland, Utrecht, Friesland, Overijssel, and Groningen. The exhibition focuses on artists who worked primarily in their native lands, rather than those whose careers took them to France, Italy, or elsewhere abroad, and highlights the broad spectrum of subjectsportraiture, marine views, landscapes, biblical and mythological narratives, genre scenes, and the natural worldthat fueled their creative imaginations.
The collection of Clement C. Moore, known as Chips, is a testament to the concentration of talent in the Dutch Republic during its Golden Age, in the seventeenth century, said William M. Griswold, director of The Morgan Library & Museum. The period is, of course, associated with Rembrandt, but there were many other extraordinary artists working at this time as well. Their exceptional creativity and skill is on display in this exhibition, and we are delighted Chips has chosen the Morgan, not only as the venue for this exhibition, but as the eventual permanent repository of these works, as well.
I am honored and thrilled that the Morgan has chosen to exhibit and catalogue my collection of Dutch drawings, said Mr. Moore. These works have been a source of great pleasure for my family and me over many years, and it is my hope others will find them as appealing. They provide us with an image of the legendary Golden Agea period that notably included the founding of New York by Dutch tradersso an opening here is especially appropriate.
PORTRAITS AND FIGURE STUDIES
Among the finest drawings in the exhibition are portraits and figure studies, including two by Rembrandt. A Beggar, Facing Left, Leaning on a Stick is Moores most recently acquired Rembrandt, and is also the earliest chronologically, dating to 162829. Rembrandt executed the sheet during his Leiden period (162531), when he was preoccupied with the theme of beggars. This figure, with his tall hat, ample cloak, and walking stick, was deftly sketched with an economical use of pen and ink. Adjusting the pressure on his pen and with it the width of each strokethin for the shading of the figures face, thick for the darkest side of his hatRembrandt worked quickly and confidently to capture the essence of the man, and masterfully suggested the fall of light through a combination of areas of blank paper, such as the hat, and rapid parallel hatching in his face, left leg, and the ground at the left to suggest volume and shadow.
Two Men in Polish Dress Conversing demonstrates Rembrandts powers of observation. An endless variety of people lived in and traveled through the Dutch Republic during this period, and the artist diligently recorded the bustling activity of the world around him. The men represented here are identifiable as Ashkenazi or Eastern European Jews by their long beards and costumes. Their garments, żupans, were typically worn by Polish Jews in the seventeenth century. The man on the left dons a rabbis hat; the figure on the right, a kolpak, the soft-peaked cap of Polish origin worn by unmarried Ashkenazi men. By the 1640s when Rembrandt created this drawing, he had come to favor black chalk; this work belongs to a group of some sixty-five chalk studies representing single or small clusters of figures shown in everyday pursuits.
Hendrick Goltzius was one of the most important Dutch artists of the transitional period between the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. His rapidly drawn Portrait of a Smiling Young Boy reflects a departure from the artists early Mannerist style in favor of greater naturalism following a trip to Italy in 159091. His bold, animated pen work masterfully captures the sitters lively, smiling eyes. The awkwardly drawn hands may constitute an autobiographic allusion: Goltziuss own fingers were badly burned and his hand permanently crippled during childhood.
David Bailly is represented by three accomplished works, including his 1624 The Lute Player. This drawing is one of at least three copies that Bailly made after a celebrated painting by Frans Hals (now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris). Minor differences, such as the straggly strands of hair on the lute players forehead and the position of his little finger on the neck of his instrument, suggest that Bailly used as his model an early copy of the original, perhaps by Franss brother, Dirck Hals, or his pupil, Judith Leyster. The table, which puts the viewer at a low vantage point, was entirely Baillys invention.
In the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic dominated the seas and much of the worlds trade. The invention of sawmills enabled the construction of an enormous fleet of ships and by 1630 Amsterdam had succeeded Antwerp as the worlds most important port. The centrality of water the Dutch way of life is repeatedly attested to in drawings in the Moore collection, and indeed in countless other images produced during this period.
Scenes like Herman Saftlevens View of a Harbor with a Careened Ship embody the bustling energy of seaports where ships we repaired, and fish and wares were sold. At the center of this view is a careened ship, beached high tide to expose its hull for repair with hot tar, which is seen generating smoke. During the seventeenth century ocean-going vessels would last approximately two years on the open sea before succumbing to worm damage or dry rot.
Willem van de Velde the Elder spent his entire career drawing boats and seascapes, and his accurate recordings of naval scenes remind one of the constant military vigilance necessary to maintain Dutch command of the seas. We know that van de Velde was present as an informal observer at a turning point in the Thirty Years War in 1639, immortalized in his striking drawing A View of Dunkirk Harbor, Probably During the Blockade by the Dutch. Some thirteen years later when the first Anglo-Dutch War broke out in 1652, van de Velde was hired by the Dutch States-General to officially record the various battles and maneuvers of the Dutch fleet. The Ship Oosterwijk with the Assembled Dutch Fleet of 1664 is one such sweeping firsthand sketch, which he would make from the deck of the vessel before working them up into pen paintings or turning them over to his son to replicate in oil on canvas.
We have a better idea of what the Dutch countryside looked like in the early seventeenth century than we do of anywhere else in Europe at the time. River with a Bridge and Fishermen Hauling in a Net, a masterful drawing by Jacob de Gheyn II, is one of the artists few surviving landscapes. In this sheet, the viewers eye is drawn into the distance by the simple yet ambitious one-point perspective. The two trees on the right bank, one dead and the other in full leaf, symbolize the contrast between spiritual purgatory and salvation. However, positive motifs such as the seas abundance and the fertility of the fields dominate, creating an image of optimism that reflects the spirit of the Golden Age.
Allart van Everdingens Winter Landscape with Skaters, Three Windmills, and Ship Under Repair epitomizes a quintessential Dutch Golden Age landscape with its depiction of figures engaged in such daily activities as going to market, skating, or hauling in the days catch; ships sailing in the distance or under repair; and, of course, the ubiquitous windmill.
Aelbert Cuyp, best known for his idyllic views of the Dutch countryside, is represented by his luminous Windmill by a River, with a Jetty in the Foreground. The jetty was likely a construct of Cuyps imagination, added to give depth to the composition.
Perhaps the most entertaining drawings of the Dutch Golden Age are those that depict scenes from everyday lifeeating, drinking, skating, music-making, gameplaying, and carousing. Willem Pietersz. Buytewechs exquisitely detailed Fish Market draws us into a bustling scene where the days catch arrives amid fish sellers offeringsslithering eels, pike, dried herring, and plaice. The work belongs to a series of four compositions representing the elements, this drawing symbolizing Water.
Isaac van Ostades genre drawings masterfully capture private moments and reveal the artists empathy for the human condition. In his A Peasant Pouring a Glass of Beer for His Companion, a standing man bends over to refill his partners glass. In return, she reaches up and tenderly touches his arm, perhaps to thank him or to signal that she has had enough. Ostades energetic The Artist in his Studio invites us to peer over a painters shoulder as a potential client watches him work. The play of light at first suggests a nocturnal scene, but the two artificial sources of illuminationeither candles or lanterns, one at the painters feet and the other on the assistants tablewould have augmented the natural daylight in the shadowy interior.
Among the most amusing scenes is Cornelis Dusarts Shrovetide Revelers Entering a Courtyard. Shrovetide festivities offered an unapologetic excuse for indulgence and foolish behavior before the penitence demanded by the Lenten season. In Dusarts drawing, the entertainment that unfolds before us is so captivating, it is easy to overlook the appalling state of the house, its broken windows, and a spilled basket of coalnot to mention the figures shamelessly urinating, defecating, or drunkenly enjoying their beer.
Gerbrand van den Eeckhouts Young Man Seated on a Barrel, with His Hand Raised to His Head offers an allegory of human frailty or the foible of overindulgence celebrated in Dusarts drawing. Van den Eeckhouts black and white chalk drawings on blue paper have been highly prized since the seventeenth century. A seemingly genteel young man or soldier holds his hand up to shield his eyes from the unrelenting sun, his sensitivity to light perhaps explainable by the contents of the barrel upon which he sits.
ANIMALS AND NATURALIA
Dutch artists had myriad points of access to exotic animals, whether from ships returning from the far corners of the known world, traveling circuses, menageries, street fairs, or markets. Johannes Bronckhorst, who resided in Hoorn, the port of entry for the ships of the Dutch East India Company, had ample opportunity to study the exotic taxidermied birds imported into the country. Bronckhorst accurately rendered the body of his King Bird of Paradise, though he could not have known that it had blue feet or that its two elongated tail wires were decorated with emerald green disk feathers on its tip (the birds feet and tail feathers were routinely removed by Asian traders, leading to the myth that it had no feet and thus spent its life in perpetual flight).
Cornelis Saftleven's Two Cows by a River with a Church Steeple in the Distance is one of several representations of domestic animals in the exhibition. Before 1600, it was unusual to find cows as the subject of a composition; Saftlevens drawing points to the increasingly important role dairy farming began to play in the Dutch economy over the course of the seventeenth century. Cow pictures emerged as a genre, and scenes such as this one, which includes two docile animals in an idealized rural landscape, provoked nostalgia for a simple way of life among wealthy Amsterdam collectors.
The Red and White Tulip drawings by Pieter Holsteyn II provide evidence of the enormous popularity and influence of tulips at this time. Covetted collectors items, tulips were status symbols worth literally millions of dollars in todays currency. The surge in tulip prices led to futures markets an speculation, a phenomenon later called tulipmania. So valuable were these bulbs that specialist botanical artists like Holsteyn created elaborate, hand-painted manuscript catalogues in order to market the bulbs to potential clients, and to record each varietys colors. The two sheets on view come from such a disbound album.
BIBLICAL AND MYTHOLOGICAL SUBJECTS
Of the final two Rembrandt drawings in the exhibition, one is clearly connected with a biblical scene; the other presents challenges for scholars, and its subject remains a matter of debate. Study of a Sick Woman for the Hundred Guilder Print and an Alternative Sketch of Her Head, ca. 1647-49, is likely the first of five or six probable studies for Rembrandts most celebrated etching, Christ Healing the Sick (Hundred Guilder Print), and the last held in a private collection. Rembrandt achieved an extremely expressive drawing despite his sparse use of pen and ink, creating this preliminary sketch of the seated woman who appears at the center of the finished etching. Rarely is there such a clear connection between Rembrandts drawings and prints.
More elusive is the subject of Rembrandts St. Peter Preaching (?), a group figure study whose tentative subject has not been identified with absolute certainty. If this is indeed a biblical scene, it is the only one for which Rembrandt used black chalk, a medium he normally reserved for landscapes and group studies. An alternative explanation is that this may, in fact, be an elaborate study of figures in exotic costumes, a theme to which Rembrandt turned frequently.
Abraham Bloemaerts Two Half-Length Studies of a Young Shepherd and a Study of the Upper Body of a Shepherd was the first major figure study to enter the Moore collection. A devout Catholic, Bloemaert received several important commissions from the church, including his first documented altarpiece, Adoration of the Shepherds, with which these studies are connected.
Another important work by Bloemaert, Danaë Receiving the Golden Rain, represents the type of mythological scene that afforded sixteenth-and seventeenth-century artists an acceptable rationale for depicting the female nude. Dating to 1610, the drawings subject is the Greek myth in which Jupiter, disguised as a shower of golden coins, gains entry to the bedchamber of Danaë, whose father, King Acrisius, has locked her away to prevent her from conceiving the male child prophesied to kill him. Danaë is impregnated by the coins and bears Perseus, who later fulfills the prophecy by accidentally striking Acrusius with his javelin.