An unprecedented collection of over sixty paintings – including works from Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, and Jacob van Ruisdael – provides insight into the 17th century Dutch and Flemish ways of life, whether through luxurious still life, humorous genre scenes, sumptuous portraits, or detailed landscapes, cityscapes, and architectural paintings.
Coinciding with the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death, the exhibition includes the Dutch master’s Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh (1632), a moving depiction in nearly perfect condition that provides a glimpse into Rembrandt’s life when he first moved to Amsterdam.
The 17th century Dutch Golden Age exhibited a new approach to art. Independence from Spanish Catholic monarchical rule and the establishment of a Dutch Protestant Republic spurred a boost in global trade, a scientific revolution, and a burgeoning middle class. This political and religious freedom paved the way for a newly democratic period in art history. Instead of the extravagant portrayals of royalty, history, and religious subjects seen elsewhere in Europe, Dutch artists often depicted ordinary people, everyday life, and secular scenes that appealed to middle-class citizens and fueled a competitive art market.
“These paintings provide a window into the society that created them, one that is not unlike our own,” says Dr. Ronni Baer, the exhibition’s curator and former Senior Curator of European Paintings at the MFA in Boston. “The works are grouped thematically rather than chronologically or by artist, amplifying their meaning and allowing us to explore their stories. The abundance of detail and pure inventiveness evident in these paintings bring the viewer pleasure the longer one looks at them.”
In the Age of Rembrandt showcases the diversity, artistry, and technical skill of Rembrandt and his contemporaries across all painting categories for which the Netherlands is best known, including portraits, genre scenes, still lifes, landscapes, cityscapes, and architectural pictures. Rachel Ruysch, one of the few noted female artists of the period, became famous during her lifetime for her dynamic and detailed floral still lifes. Gerrit Dou’s meticulously fine painting technique contrasts with the loose brushwork that gave Frans Hals’s portraits a bold sense of liveliness. Jacob van Ruisdael is renowned for his sweeping landscapes that expertly capture light
Exhibition organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and curated by Dr. Ronni Baer.
Consult the museum website for more information.
Image caption: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-1669), Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh, 1632. Museum of Fine Arts (promised gift of Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo), Boston