Paul Huys Janssen’s substantial new monograph on Caesar van Everdingen is a much-needed expansion of the literature on this important artist. Everdingen has been recognized as a key classical artist ever since the 1980-81 exhibition ‘Gods, Saints and Heroes: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt’ at the National Gallery in Washington. Everdingen’s preeminent status among the group known as the Haarlem Classicists can be seen in the inclusion of his works in major surveys and textbooks, such as Bob Haak’s The Golden Age(1984), and Seymour Slive’s new Pelican (1995). Recent exhibitions of classical art, including Albert Blankert’s ‘Dutch Classicism’ (1999, Rotterdam and Frankfurt) have highlighted Everdingen’s crucial role in the movement of Dutch art to a more classical style during the middle of the seventeenth century.
Given this popular attention and acclaim, it remains a surprise that the sole catalogue of Caesar van Everdingen’s paintings – until now – was an unpublished master’s thesis (written at Utrecht by D. van der Poel). Huys Janssen’s book is the first major catalogue raisonné of the artist, and is a worthy follower to the pioneering study of the artist by Vitale Bloch in 1936. Like Bloch, Huys Janssen treats the works with great sensitivity to nuances of style and subject. He also adds invaluable archival information, creating a remarkably full and complete image of the artist and his milieu.
Caesar van Everdingen’s career brings together many of the most central and significant artists and patrons of the seventeenth century, including Salomon de Braij, Pieter de Grebber, Jacob van Campen, and Pieter Post, as well as Constantijn Huygens, Amalia van Solms, and a multitude of civic figures and bodies. He was active in his home town of Alkmaar, and also executed major commissions in Amersfoort, Haarlem, The Hague, and Halfweg.
In the text portion of the volume, Paul Huys Janssen succinctly surveys Caesar van Everdingen’s working career. He pulls together all of the published biographical information from archival sources, including the new research added by Irene van Thiel-Stroman in the Dutch Classicism exhibition of 1999. Huys Janssen adds a significant set of new documents unearthed in his own foray into the notarial archives at Alkmaar – from accounts of a barroom brawl and other disputes in which the artist was involved to new information about Everdingen’s comfortable financial situation. Huys Janssen’s lucid account of the interwoven familial relationships of the Everdingens gives a fascinating picture of how the social fabric of the time functioned, and how the practical business of art was conducted in a tight-knit local environment. All of Huys Janssen’s references are summarized and transcribed in the appendix, providing an invaluable source for further research.
Particularly interesting in Huys Janssen’s study of Everdingen’s early career is his treatment of two debated issues: firstly, whether Everdingen should be listed, as Houbraken asserts, as a pupil of Jan Gerritsz. Van Bronckhorst of Utrecht, and secondly, the role of pupils in Everdingen’s own shop. Using both stylistic and archival materials, and drawing on his knowledge of artistic training in the period, Huys Janssen persuasively argues the case for Everdingen having an advanced apprenticeship with Van Bronckhorst in the years 1637-38/9. The artist’s first major commission, for the Organ shutters of the Sint-Laurenskerk at Alkmaar, was received shortly after this apprenticeship ended, and may mark the artist’s entry into the world of practicing artists. If so, this was certainly a grand entrance. Everdingen’s organ shutters enjoyed immediate popular success, witnessed by the bonus granted to the artist shortly after installation. More importantly, that project, on which Everdingen collaborated with Jacob van Campen, introduced the artist to a wider circle of painters, and to a more updated style. Huys Janssen convincingly argues that Everdingen’s relationship with Jacob van Campen was one of the most important factors in the artist’s career. Not only did Van Campen introduce Everdingen to other classical artists, he made it possible for Everdingen to receive other major commissions, such as the paintings for the Oranjezaal at Huis Ten Bosch, and the work for the Halfweg Water Board (with Pieter Post).
However, the question of why the burgomasters would have chosen the relatively inexperienced Everdingen for such a major commission is incompletely addressed by the author. Huys Janssen’s interest lies in the activities of the artist rather than those of his patrons and audience. While this approach is certainly appropriate for a monograph, further study of the connection between the classical style and the kind of elite patrons for whom Everdingen worked would have been welcome. Also missing here is a substantive discussion of the issues surrounding Everdingen’s participation in collaborative projects (such as the Alkmaar organ panels, the Halfweg Count William II Conferring the Charter on the Water Board of Rijnland in 1255, and the Oranjezaal). However, Huys Janssen’s book provides rich material for further study in this vein, by clearly documenting Everdingen’s autograph paintings, establishing his stylistic approach, and providing information about his portraits and commissions.
How Everdingen’s studio operated is a question appropriately raised by Huys Janssen. The existence of contemporary copies of the artist’s better-known paintings (such as the Allegory of Winter, in Southampton and Amsterdam) has long been known. Rather than merely debate the attribution of the works, as previous writers were content to do, Huys Janssen re-evaluates the information known about the workings of Everdingen’s shop. Logically, he concludes that even without specific documentation identifying Everdingen’s apprentices, the material evidence suggests that the master had several helpers, who occupied themselves producing copies. Drawing upon Pieter Schatborn’s identification of a set of related academic drawings from Haarlem in this period (Figuurstudies, Nederlandse tekeningen uit de 17de eeuw, 1981), Huys Janssen intriguingly suggests that the master may have participated with the other Haarlem Classicists in ‘a kind of drawing academy’ in the 1640s and 1650s.
Huys Janssen’s catalogue raisonné is an adept and thorough treatment of the paintings. The author’s long experience with these paintings, especially the works remaining in the Alkmaar Stedelijk Museum, is abundantly apparent, and he lucidly separates the autograph from rejected works. Lastly, the book is lavishly illustrated and well organized. It will prove to be an essential resource not only on Dutch Classicism, but also for a more complete understanding of Dutch art in the middle of the seventeenth century.
The Colorado College