againstathorn: (Studio pic - pencil shaver)

Saturday afternoon I went to the Holland Museum. The museum is renowned for their collection of Dutch paintings located in their upstairs galleries. It’s a modest ensemble of works from relatively obscure artists who were active during the 17th through the 19th century. Some of earlier painters were pupils under big names like Frans Hals or Rembrandt while others came much later and created works inspired by the Dutch Golden Age which had preceded them. Many of the 19th century artists show distinct influences from the French Barbizon movement, such as Johannes Martinus Vrolijk’s Cows at Pasture and George Jan van din Linde’s Dutch Harbor with Windmill, while others obviously were flirting with Impressionism. Of the entire upstairs collection the most interesting piece to me was an excellent marine painting, Shipwreck on Stormy Sea, by George Williem Opdenhoff. There were also some finely rendered yet overwhelmingly sterile royal portraits by Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt. And I must mention the large scale group portrait by Cornelis Engelsz which is apparently only half of the original painting. The other portion is probably somewhere in Amsterdam. As is the painting still shows upwards of 28 Dutch dudes, and based on what I’ve read if it was reunited with the other half it’d probably have around 35 - 55 people.

Keep in mind that in this collection you won’t find any Dutch stables like Jan Steen or Willem Kalf, and sadly I don’t recall one traditional still life. I assume the museum had to work with what had been donated to them, most of which came from a benefactor in San Francisco who very recently announced that he would be pulling most of these contributions to the collection, so I guess this was my last chance to see them before going into private storage.

Downstairs there was a temporary exhibition called Dutch Arcadia which focused on 19th century romantic landscapes from the Beekhuis Collection. I actually preferred these paintings to the ones upstairs, but then again I’m a sucker for landscapes. The standout piece is Johann Bernard Klombeck’s very tonalist Evening Summer Landscape which reminded me of George Inness’s later works. Really wonderful.

Most of the other works in the exhibit mimic the more traditional painting style of the Dutch Golden Age. These should be regarded as partly-imagined landscapes rather than actual depictions of specific places. Of these works the following caught my interest:

Mountainous Landscape with Heavy Trees and a Couple – Alexander Joseph Daiwaille
Monastery – Johannes Wernardus Bilders
Landscape in Gelderland – Lodewijk Johannes Kleijn
View of a Gorge with Figures, Barge and Cottage – Andreas Schelfhout
Wooded Landscape with Children Playing by a Pond – Willem Roelofs
Cows at the Water’s Edge – Dirk Peter van Lokhorst
Horses and Farm Animals near a Ruin – Wouterus Verschuur Sr.
Cattle and Sheep in a River Landscape – Pieter Gerardus van Os

I really enjoy this genre of work, although I have to admit I have a difficult time telling one painter’s work from the other. During the 19th century there must’ve been hundreds upon hundreds of Dutch painters producing these same idealized landscapes. The works consistently showcase a high degree of talent and technical craftsmanship, but the overall vision rarely exceeds that of a simple romantic picture, give or take some livestock or human figures in the foreground, accompanied by perhaps a vast woodland area with a ruin or two in the background. Oh yeah, and then there’s the occasional windmill. This is fine for the first 20 or so paintings but then certain techniques and themes start get redundant. The many metaphors in this genre of Dutch painting could be described as a language in itself, but it’s mostly comprised of painters talking shop with one another. In other words, there’s not a lot for outsides to connect with aside from the pretty scenery. A majority of these works contain a certain timeless aesthetic which would make them excellent decorative pieces for anyone’s home, and that’s about the full extent of their function.

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againstathorn

December 2016

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