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‘Tales of the City: Drawing in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel’ at The Cleveland Museum of Art

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1530-1569), Desidia (Sloth), 1557, Pen and brown ink on paper. Courtesy of the Albertina Museum, Vienna.

Sun, Oct 9 - Sun, Jan 8  2023

The Cleveland Museum of Art

The exhibition Tales of the City: Drawing in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel is on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art from October 9 to January 8, 2022. The installation features rarely seen drawings from the Albertina Museum in Vienna, including works such as Hieronymus Bosch’s The Tree Man, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Desidia (Sloth). INFO/Admission. The Museum will host a symposium on 3 and 4 November. 

About the Exhibition
A selection of more than 90 drawings explores an array of refined techniques, including lavishly colored drawings and luxury objects drawn with ink on parchment, with subjects ranging from hell scenes to mythological dramas. Among several designs for majestic stained glass windows is a rare cartoon (full-scale drawing) measuring almost five feet tall by Antwerp artist Jan de Beer. Other notable works—seldom seen outside Europe—include portrait drawings in colored chalks by Hendrick Goltzius and a technically sophisticated pen drawing that imitates engraving by his stepson, Jacob Matham.

The Northern Renaissance transformed daily life in the 1500s in the Netherlands, brought about by the Protestant Reformation, wide-scale urbanization, and the start of the Eighty Years’ War. Due to these changes, art patronage in the Netherlands shifted from that of the church and nobility to the rising middle class. Central to the blossoming of the arts was the skyrocketing wealth centered in the region’s merchant cities—in particular, Antwerp, which was the primary depot for luxury goods in the North and for overland and seafaring trade as far as Asia.

Jacob Matham (1571–1631),  Neptune, 1602, Pen and brown and gray ink and black chalk on paper, courtesy of The Albertina Museum, Vienna.With their various functions and relationships to other media and projects, the drawings provide fascinating insight into the Netherlandish city as a place of artistic collaboration and patronage. Artists made drawings to prepare for large commissions, to transfer designs to other media, and to plan civic events; many works in the exhibition were created in conjunction with the Netherlands’ flourishing industries in stained glass, tapestries, and printmaking. Drawings were also increasingly made as autonomous works of art.

The Cleveland Museum and the exhibition have free entrance. Guided tours of ‘Tales of the City’ (also free) can be reserved here in advance.

About the Albertina Museum Collection
The exhibition features rarely seen drawings from the Albertina Museum in Vienna, one of Europe’s oldest and finest collections. Combined with choice examples from the Cleveland Museum of Art, the exhibition explores issues that remain relevant today, such as communal identity and expression, religious conflict and freedom, and the ethics and excesses of wealth.

Hieronymus Bosch (ca. 1450 – 9 August 1516), The Tree Man, ca. 1505, Pen and light and dark brown ink on paper, courtesy of the Albertina Museum, Vienna.

Symposium: Tales of the City. Drawing in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel
The Cleveland Museum of Art will host a symposium on 3 and 4 November 2022. The conference will cover themes such as ‘Color and Practice’, ‘Practice and Audience’ and ‘Audience and Place’, featuring international speakers from libraries and academia. A keynote talk will be held by Stijn Alsteens, International Head of the Old Master Drawings at Christie’s Auction House.

Location: John C. and Sally S. Morley Family Foundation Lecture Hall at the Cleveland Museum of Art.


Thursday, November 3, 2022
Keynote (6:00 p.m.)
Stijn Alsteens, International Head, Department of Old Master Drawings, Christie’s Auction House

Friday, November 4, 2022
Welcome and Introduction (10:00 a.m.)
Heather Lemonedes Brown, Virginia N. and Randall J. Barbato Deputy Director and Chief Curator
Emily J. Peters, Curator of Prints and Drawings, the Cleveland Museum of Art

Session 1: Color and Practice (10:45 a.m.–12:05 p.m.)
Chaired by Laura Ritter, Albertina Museum

Sixteenth-Century Netherlandish Drawings on Colored Grounds
Olenka Horbatsch, British Museum

New Terrains: Landscape Drawings on Colored Grounds in the Low Countries
Stephanie Porras, Tulane University

Hendrick Goltzius and the Material of Blue Paper in Haarlem
Alexa McCarthy, University of St. Andrews

Abraham Bloemaert and Karel van Mander: Drawing and Painting in Pink
Austėja Mackelaitė, Morgan Library & Museum

Session 2: Practice and Audience (1:15–2:25 p.m.)
Chaired by Annemarie Stefes, Independent Scholar, Bremen

Stained Glass in the City: Drawing for a Booming Market in the Netherlands
Ellen Konowitz, State University of New York, New Paltz

“Dropping a line:” Contemporary Inscriptions on Netherlandish Drawings
Saskia van Altena, Rijksmuseum

Drafting Netherlandish Sculpture: The Spencer Album in the New York Public Library
Ethan Matt Kavaler, University of Toronto

Jacques de Gheyn II Drawing Inventions nae ‘t leven en uyt den gheest
Susanne Bartels, University of Geneva, University of Amsterdam, and RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History

Session 3: Audience and Place (3:00–4:20 p.m.)
Chaired by Emily Peters, the Cleveland Museum of Art

Amateur Drawing, Music Book Production, and Sociality in Sixteenth-Century Urban Bruges
Huw Keene, University of Edinburgh

Designs for a Pious City: Lambert Lombard and Catholic Monuments for Liège
Elizabeth Rice Mattison, Hood Museum of Art

Reimagining the Post-Reformation Landscape through Drawing
Virginia Girard, Columbia University

More than Drawing: Intermediality of Netherlandish Drawings around 1600
Iris Brahms, Free University Berlin

Closing Remarks (4:30–5:00 p.m.)
Victoria Sancho Lobis, Benton Museum of Art, Pomona College

More info and registration here.

DutchCulture USA