Cornelis Vroom, Landscape with a Road and a Fence, 1631. Brown ink over graphite on off-white antique laid paper. The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Gift of George Abrams in memory of Robert M. Light, 2020.209.
Crossroads: Drawing the Dutch Landscape
May 21, 2022–August 14, 2022, University Research Gallery, University Teaching Gallery, Harvard Art Museums
Towns, farms, waterways, and woods—discover how Rembrandt, Van Goyen, Van Ruisdael, and more approached these subjects as meditations on humankind’s relationship with the environment.
Between the late 16th century and the early 18th century, artists working in the Netherlands—then known as the Dutch Republic—produced an extraordinary number of landscape drawings. Many of these works depicted sites that were either recognizable as or evocative of the country’s cities, villages, and countryside. This profusion of local imagery coincided with the young country’s quest for global dominion, as well as with war and dramatic ecological change at home. As notions of Dutch “territory” shifted, artists engaged with the world by drawing outside, from direct observation—a practice repeatedly encouraged in the art theory of the period. Once back in the studio, they could produce finished drawings and works in other media, adapting observed motifs or fusing them into altered or imagined views. In so doing, they constructed a selective vision of the Dutch landscape that by turns depicted, hinted at, or ignored the changes occurring around them.
With 90 works selected almost entirely from the holdings of the Harvard Art Museums and the Maida and George Abrams Collection, this exhibition demonstrates how Dutch artists navigated intersections, or crossroads, between artistic traditions and environmental realities through their drawings. It also considers the associations that the increasingly urban population of the Dutch Republic brought to these works—and what we bring to them today.