Jennifer M. Kilian, The Paintings of Karel du Jardin (1626-1678). Catalogue raisonné (Oculi: Studies in the Arts of the Low Countries, 8). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2005. 498 pp, 32 color, 229 b&w illus. ISBN 978-90-272-533-5.
Jennifer M. Kilian, Karel du Jardin 1626-1678. Publication accompanying the exhibition Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, December 14, 2007 – March 16, 2008. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum; Zwolle: Waanders Publishers, 2007. Parallel text in Dutch and English. 80 pp, 59 color illus. ISBN 978-868-9030-9.
The Paintings of Karel du Jardin is the first catalogue raisonné of the work of a talented artist whose versatile paintings reflect the refined taste of Amsterdam’s elite at the height of the city’s prosperity. The text, based on the author’s dissertation for the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (1992), includes six chapters that examine Du Jardin’s life, his patronage and critical fortunes, and his achievements as a painter of landscapes, portraits, and historical subjects. The text is followed by a list of related documents (with many new archival discoveries, including a record of Du Jardin’s baptism in 1626) and a catalogue raisonné describing 158 attributed paintings as well as 32 doubtful and 40 rejected works. (Du Jardin’s atmospheric prints and drawings, showing a great affinity for animal life, are mentioned but not catalogued.)
Like many artists of his time, Karel du Jardin occupies a place in surveys of Dutch art constrained by the paradigm of artistic specialization. In his case, the niche is Italianate landscape. Until now, the lack of a full-fledged monograph on the artist (apart from E. Brochhagen’s German dissertation of 1958) has hampered appreciation for the full range of his achievements, but Kilian demonstrates that Du Jardin was equally gifted in creating impressive history paintings and elegant portraits. This catalogue raisonné is one of the heftiest books so far published in the series Oculi: Studies in the Arts of the Low Countries, by John Benjamins Publishing Company, headquartered in Amsterdam. The format is traditional, with all illustrations grouped at the back of the book; the 32 color plates provide a good introduction to all aspects of the artist’s work, and the more extensive black-and-white illustrations are generally crisp and legible. Institutional libraries should definitely purchase this book, a solid and original monograph on an important artist, but unfortunately, the high price ($510) will place it beyond the reach of most private buyers.
This review is so late that it comes to address not only Kilian’s catalogue raisonné, but also subsequent developments prompted by it. (For more detailed and timely assessments, the reader is referred to the earlier reviews by Nicolette Sluijter-Seiffert in Oud-Holland 119:4 (2006), pp. 201-205, and by Luuk Pijl in The Burlington Magazine 148 (February 2006), pp. 126-127.) From December 2007 to March 2008, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam mounted an exhibition of 23 paintings by Du Jardin, the first-ever monographic show devoted to this artist, and commissioned Kilian to write the book published to accompany the show. Following a trend that is becoming more common in recent times, this publication is not a full-fledged exhibition catalogue with entries on individual works, but an overview of the exhibition’s theme: in this case, a concise and well-illustrated survey of Du Jardin’s life and work. (For an earlier review of this publication, see Erik Spaans in The Burlington Magazine 149 [February 2009], pp. 106-107.) As a compact and inexpensive guide to the artist’s principal achievements, this publication offers a useful basic source, but for those with a serious interest in the artist and his milieu, it by no means supersedes the more comprehensive monograph.
A symposium in connection with the exhibition prompted further thoughts on Du Jardin and his context. Kilian makes judicious use of Arnold Houbraken’s colorful biography of the artist, indicating where documents contradict it, but Jonathan Bikker, whose recent research has focused on art patronage in later seventeenth-century Amsterdam, now calls upon a variety of documents to demonstrate more specifically that some aspects of Houbraken’s account are closer to the truth than previously realized, but others are incorrect; in particular, Du Jardin did not run off to Italy in 1675 with the renowned art collector Joan Reynst, but with his younger brothers Gerard and Abraham. Furthermore, the traditional identification of a painting in the Rijksmuseum as a portrait of Joan Reynst, which Kilian accepts (Cat. 115), is highly unlikely (Jonathan Bikker, “ ‘Sir Joan Reynst, his good acquaintance, neighbour, and landlord’: truth and fantasy in Houbraken’s life of Karel du Jardin,” The Burlington Magazine 151, February 2009, pp. 92-97). In the past few years, several newly discovered paintings by Du Jardin have appeared on the market (three are mentioned by Pijl); it is possible that Kilian could have gone further in revising her thesis for publication, but these few additions and corrections do not materially alter her conclusions about the nature and scope of Du Jardin’s achievements.
Born in Amsterdam in 1626, Dujardin worked in The Hague, Paris, and Rome as well as his native city. Houbraken describes him as a pupil of Nicolaes Berchem, and their style and subject matter show certain affinities, but his training remains undocumented. Kilian connects Dujardin’s activity as a portraitist to his contact in The Hague with his second cousin, the portrait painter Pieter Nason. The sunny atmosphere of his early landscapes suggests a trip to the south in the 1640s; there is no firm evidence that he reached Italy until much later (although Pijl suggests that a drawing in the Lugt Collection, initialled and dated 1653, may provide a clue), but Kilian emphasizes that documents place him securely in France in the 1650s. This corrective reminds us that, as the term “Italianate” suggests, the study of Dutch artistic connections with southern Europe has remained fixated on Rome and Venice while neglecting a rich and continuous history of interactions with France. By 1654, Dujardin had become a founding member of the artistic confraternity De Pictura in The Hague. His bucolic scenes of the 1650s show an affinity with Paulus Potter. During these years he also produced about 50 etchings, many of them studies of animals; Kilian points here to the impact of Pieter van Laer.
It was in the 1660s, in Amsterdam, that Du Jardin expanded his repertoire to include portraits of prominent citizens as well as finely crafted history paintings. Like Ferdinand Bol, Jan Lievens (his neighbor on the Rozengracht, from whom he inherited a pupil, Erick van den Weerelt), and other ambitious artists active in the city at that time, Du Jardin took advantage of the active market for imposing portraits and narrative paintings that developed in concert with the decoration of the Amsterdam Town Hall and the lively art patronage of civic organizations and their wealthy regents. Like these artists, too, he perfected a polished technique and bright palette responsive to the increasingly classicizing taste of patrician patrons. Why he chose to spend his last few years in Italy is unclear; surprisingly, in Rome, where he lived from 1675 to 1678, he abandoned his cool, classicizing style for smokier colors and rougher brushwork. He never returned to the Netherlands, but died in Venice shortly after arriving there in 1678.
As Kilian points out, Du Jardin is familiar only to specialists today, but at the height of his career, he was one of the most highly paid artists in Amsterdam. With these publications, we gain a sense of his individual achievements apart from the generic categories to which he has routinely been assigned. The synthesis of strong color, accomplished technique, and a convincing but refined approach to nature Du Jardin brings to his diverse subject matter epitomizes the style we may call “classical baroque”, preferred by later seventeenth-century aristocrats throughout Europe. Fortunately, objective critical thinking and a spate of new research on late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century art in the Netherlands has opened the eyes of scholars to the virtues of this stylistic trend, which can no longer be considered un-Dutch. It was because of artists like Du Jardin that Amsterdam in the 1660s was able to hold its own as a cultural capital on the European stage.
Ton Broos and Augustinus P. Dierick (eds.), About & Around Rembrandt (Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies/ Revue canadienne d’études néerlandaises, XXVIII). Windsor (Ontario), 2007. 242 pp, 45 b&w illus. ISSN 0225-0500.