Featuring 70 paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt surveys the Dutch Golden Age and includes masterworks by artists working during the country’s first century of existence, including Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Gerrit Dou, Jan Steen and Jacob van Ruisdael. The exhibition, which opens at the Saint Louis Art Museum on Oct. 20, features many of the subjects for which the Dutch are well known, from landscapes to still lifes, portraiture to scenes of everyday life, as well as paintings of biblical and mythological subjects. “The Dutch paintings collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has long been renowned for its extraordinarily high quality and works by major artists,” said Brent R. Benjamin, the Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to share 70 paintings from this splendid collection with the people of St. Louis.”
The Dutch Republic gained independence from Spanish rule in the Eighty Years War (1568-1648). Although small in size and mostly near or below sea level, the young republic quickly rose to international prominence. At home, allegiances to local towns persisted, and specializations in the arts developed in regional centers. Dutch prosperity fueled the market for portraiture across the republic. In the early 1630s, a young and ambitious Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) moved from his native Leiden to the rapidly expanding port city of Amsterdam. There, he quickly established himself as the city’s preeminent portrait painter. An extraordinary painting from this period is featured in the exhibition, the luminous 1632 portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh. The broad brushwork of Frans Hals, the leading portraitist in the nearby city of Haarlem, also will be on display in his painting of a gentleman wearing an elegant silk dressing gown.
Other celebrated 17th-century Dutch artists are represented in the exhibition. An elegant self-portrait by Rembrandt’s pupil, Gerrit Dou, is one of many works reflecting this artist’s influential career. A still life by Rachel Ruysch foregrounds species imported from abroad, highlighting Dutch prominence in world trade. Frans Post documented the Dutch colony in Brazil: his painting bears witness to the transatlantic slave trade, but avoids reference to the massive human devastation caused by that trade. Jan Steen was a leader in the development of the subject we now call simply “genre painting,” in which stories—with a moral—are set in the Dutch world of the time. Finally, artists such as Jacob van Ruisdael turned landscape painting into a national specialty, with careful observations of the natural world and the activities taking place within it.
The exhibition celebrates two important recent gifts to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo and Susan and Matthew Weatherbie.
On November 15, there will be a lecture about the Critical Fortunes of Rembrandt’s Portraits. More information and tickets can be found here.