For its third season, the Pinacothèque de Paris
, in association with the Rijksmuseum
in Amsterdam, will present one of the most interesting periods in art history: the Dutch 17th century.
That period produced some of the most famous artists of all time, and above all the one whose name has remained one of the leading references for every artist for nearly four centuries: Rembrandt.
The exhibition will put on an outstanding ensemble of over one hundred and thirty pieces, including about sixty paintings, thirty graphic works (drawings and water-colors) ten etchings as well as ten objects to give an extremely visual representation of that period (carved ivories, tapestries, china, wooden miniatures, silverware, glassworks and furnishings).
By means of that periods works of art, it is easier to grasp how a young republic (1581) was able, thanks to its commercial successes and its tolerant approach to thinking, to become one of the most powerful commercial places in Europe at a time when other European nations were entering an endemic recession and were religiously intolerant: the new-born republic appeared as a promised land where everyone could live in peace and harmony.
It was above all by means of religious forbearance that the Republic of the United Provinces (ancestor of the Netherlands) was to attract a great number of people who found there the possibility of working, thinking and of practicing their religion whereas they were persecuted for their beliefs in their countries of origin.Writers, and thinkers flocked from all over Europe to teach, publish and develop their knowledge.That part of the world thus became the centre of the world as regards knowledge.
Maritime commercial power was to be rapidly associated with that powerhouse of learning. The commercial strength grew thanks to the speed of the ships that traded in the Baltic Sea. Amsterdam soon became a hegemonic commercial powerhouse far ahead of every other European seat of power.
Thus Amsterdam became the leading economic place for industry, commerce and art It was thus quite naturally that the young republic also became a centre wherein culture in its broadest meaning, as much in the visual arts as in letters, was able to flourish. One of the first characteristics of the region was the growth of a new kind of patronage. It was no longer confined to the wealthy aristocratic families, as elsewhere throughout Europe, but also included newly rich businessmen, based on the recently developed maritime commerce. Born into patrician families, that middle class had been the main supporters of works of art. Later on, all those who made money commissioned works of art in their turn, thus creating a sort of competitiveness between the trade guilds and the patrician families, each one feeling the need to exhibit their social success and their economic ascension, as well as their evolving status.
And so the region became the main cultural focus wherein artisans and artistsworkshops could flourish. Art and culture made up a new form of economic and industrial prosperity.A form of one-upmanship in those realms was one of its consequences. Every year, new painters sprang up, bringing with them new themes or unusual subjects.Genre painting was born at that time, the description of landscapes was approached in novel ways.
A generation of unprecedented wealth in the history of art sprang up, that was to be found again in Paris only at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century. Some painters also acquired a specialty in very precise fields : still-lives or vanities, with Willem Claesz Heda and Pieter Claesz ; landscapes with Jan van Goyen, Jacob van Ruysdael or else Meindert Hobbema. Jan Steen or Adriaen van Ostade illustrated satires of village life, whereas Gerard Ter Borch and Pieter de Hooch gave themselves up to the comedy of manners and to the genre scenes, which included peasant festivities. Emanuel de Witte and Pieter Jansz Saenredam specialized in painting monuments,Thomas de Keyser and Frans Hals were portrait specialists and Paulus Potter specialized in animal portraits.
We have to set apart individuals such as Vermeer or Rembrandt who are finally not particularly representative of that period. However, they have become its symbols. Unlike other artists, they were interested in several different fields and refused any kind of specialization. One and the other have remained the absolute models, beyond time and period, regarded for four centuries as the leading painters in the history of art.
This exhibition wants above all to put forward Rembrandts singular role as the most influential artist of his time. Rembrandt enjoyed a notoriety that gave him a very particular status and made of him the model for that period thanks to his tolerance, his modernity, his poetical realism and his emotional power, chiefly translated by his use of light.A master of chiaroscuro, Rembrandt conferred upon his models,whether simple portraits or religious scenes, an unequalled dimension, a density, a human beauty that made of him the fore-runner of modernity, an analyst of souls and consciousness three centuries ahead of his contemporaries.