Dutch Artists at the Morgan Library

New York, NY, January 2012— Bolstered by its recent political independence, economic prosperity, and maritime supremacy, the Dutch Republic witnessed an artistic flourishing during the seventeenth century, known as the Dutch Golden Age. The Morgan Library & Museum presents over ninety drawings by some of the preeminent artists of the period—among them Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn and his followers Ferdinand Bol and Gerbrand van den Eeckhout; Abraham Bloemaert; Aelbert Cuyp; and Jan van Goyen—in an exhibition titled Rembrandt's World: Dutch Drawings from the Clement C. Moore Collection, on view from January 20 through April 29, 2012.

The Dutch Republic of the seventeenth century was a federation of seven states—Holland, Zeeland, Gelderland, Utrecht, Friesland, Overijssel, and Groningen. The exhibition focuses on artists who worked primarily in their native lands, rather than those whose careers took them to France, Italy, or elsewhere abroad, and highlights the broad spectrum of subjects—portraiture, marine views, landscapes, biblical and mythological narratives, genre scenes, and the natural world—that fueled their creative imaginations. 

"The collection of Clement C. Moore, known as Chips, is a testament to the concentration of talent in the Dutch Republic during its Golden Age" said William M. Griswold, director of The Morgan Library & Museum. "The period is, of course, associated with Rembrandt, but there were many other extraordinary artists working at this time as well. Their exceptional creativity and skill is on display in this exhibition, and we are delighted Chips has chosen the Morgan, not only as the venue for this exhibition, but as the eventual permanent repository of these works, as well."

"I am honored and thrilled that the Morgan has chosen to exhibit and catalogue my collection of Dutch drawings," said Mr. Moore. "These works have been a source of great pleasure for my family and me over many years, and it is my hope others will find them as appealing. They provide us with an image of the legendary Golden Age—a period that notably included the founding of New York by Dutch traders—so an opening here is especially appropriate."

Among the finest drawings in the exhibition are portraits and figure studies, including two by Rembrandt. A Beggar, Facing Left, Leaning on a Stick is Moore's most recently acquired Rembrandt, and is also the earliest chronologically, dating to 1628-29. Rembrandt executed the sheet during his Leiden period (1625-31), when he was preoccupied with the theme of beggars. This figure, with his tall hat, ample cloak, and walking stick, was deftly sketched with an economical use of pen and ink. Adjusting the pressure on his pen and with it the width of each stroke—thin for the shading of the figure's face, thick for the darkest side of his hat—Rembrandt worked quickly and confidently to capture the essence of the man, and masterfully suggested the fall of light through a combination of areas of blank paper, such as the hat, and rapid parallel hatching in his face, left leg, and the ground at the left to suggest volume and shadow.
Two Men in Polish Dress Conversing demonstrates Rembrandt's powers of observation. An endless variety of people lived in and traveled through the Dutch Republic during this period, and the artist diligently recorded the bustling activity of the world around him. The men represented here are identifiable as Ashkenazi or Eastern European Jews by their long beards and costumes. Their garments, źupans, were typically worn by Polish Jews in the seventeenth century. The man on the left dons a rabbi's hat; the figure on the right, a kolpak, the soft-peaked cap of Polish origin worn by unmarried Ashkenazi men. By the 1640s when Rembrandt created this drawing, he had come to favor black chalk; this work belongs to a group of some sixty-five chalk studies representing single or small clusters of figures shown in everyday pursuits.
Hendrick Goltzius was one of the most important Dutch artists of the transitional period between the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. His rapidly drawn Portrait of a Smiling Young Boy reflects a departure from the artist's early Mannerist style in favor of greater naturalism following a trip to Italy in 1590-91. His bold, animated pen work masterfully captures the sitter's lively, smiling eyes. The awkwardly drawn hands may constitute an autobiographical allusion: Goltzius's own fingers were badly burned and his hand permanently crippled during childhood.

David Bailly is represented by three accomplished works, including his 1624 The Lute Player. This drawing is one of at least three copies that Bailly made after a celebrated painting by Frans Hals (now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris). Minor differences, such as the straggly strands of hair on the lute player's forehead and the position of his little finger on the neck of his instrument, suggest that Bailly used as his model an early copy of the original, perhaps by Frans's brother, Dirck Hals, or his pupil, Judith Leyster. The table, which puts the viewer at a low vantage point, was entirely Bailly's invention.


In the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic dominated the seas and much of the world's trade. The invention of sawmills enabled the construction of an enormous fleet of ships and by 1630 Amsterdam had succeeded Antwerp as the world's most important port. The centrality of water to the Dutch way of life is repeatedly attested to in drawings in the Moore collection, and indeed in countless other images produced during this period.

Scenes like Herman Saftleven's View of a Harbor with a Careened Ship embody the bustling energy of seaports where ships were repaired, and fish and wares were sold. At the center of this view is a careened ship, beached at high tide to expose its hull for repair with hot tar, which is seen generating smoke. During the seventeenth century oceangoing vessels would last approximately two years on the open sea before succumbing to worm damage or dry rot.

Willem van de Velde the Elder spent his entire career drawing boats and seascapes, and his accurate recordings of naval scenes remind one of the constant military vigilance necessary to maintain Dutch command of the seas. We know that van de Velde was present as an informal observer at a turning point in the Thirty Years' War in 1639, immortalized in his striking drawing A View of Dunkirk Harbor, Probably During the Blockade by the Dutch. Some thirteen years later when the first Anglo-Dutch War broke out in 1652, van de Velde was hired by the Dutch States-General to officially record the various battles and maneuvers of the Dutch fleet. The Ship Oosterwijk with the Assembled Dutch Fleet of 1664 is one such sweeping firsthand sketch, which he would make from the deck of the vessel before working them up into pen paintings or turning them over to his son to replicate in oil on canvas.

We have a better idea of what the Dutch countryside looked like in the early seventeenth century than we do of anywhere else in Europe at the time. River with a Bridge and Fishermen Hauling in a Net, a masterful drawing by Jacob de Gheyn II, is one of the artist's few surviving landscapes. In this sheet, the viewer's eye is drawn into the distance by the simple yet ambitious one-point perspective. The two trees on the right bank, one dead and the other in full leaf, symbolize the contrast between spiritual purgatory and salvation. However, positive motifs, such as the sea's abundance and the fertility of the fields dominate, creating an image of optimism that reflects the spirit of the Golden Age.

Allart van Everdingen's Winter Landscape with Skaters, Three Windmills, and Ship Under Repair epitomizes a quintessential Dutch Golden Age landscape with its depiction of figures engaged in such daily activities as going to market, skating, or hauling in the day's catch; ships sailing in the distance or under repair; and, of course, the ubiquitous windmill.

Aelbert Cuyp, best known for his idyllic views of the Dutch countryside, is represented by his luminous Windmill by a River, with a Jetty in the Foreground. The jetty was likely a construct of Cuyp's imagination, added to give depth to the composition. 

Perhaps the most entertaining drawings of the Dutch Golden Age are those that depict scenes from everyday life—eating, drinking, skating, music-making, game-playing, and carousing. Willem Pietersz. Buytewech's exquisitely detailed Fish Market draws us into a bustling scene where the day's catch arrives amid fish sellers' offerings—slithering eels, pike, dried herring, and plaice. The work belongs to a series of four compositions representing the elements, this drawing symbolizing Water.

Isaac van Ostade's genre drawings masterfully capture private moments and reveal the artist's empathy for the human condition. In his A Peasant Pouring a Glass of Beer for His Companion, a standing man bends over to refill his partner's glass. In return, she reaches up and tenderly touches his arm, perhaps to thank him or to signal that she has had enough. Ostade's energetic The Artist in his Studio invites us to peer over a painter's shoulder as a potential client watches him work. The play of light at first suggests a nocturnal scene, but the two artificial sources of illumination—either candles or lanterns, one at the painter's feet and the other on the assistants' table—would have augmented the natural daylight in the shadowy interior. 

Among the most amusing scenes is Cornelis Dusart's Shrovetide Revelers Entering a Courtyard. Shrovetide festivities offered an unapologetic excuse for indulgence and foolish behavior before the penitence demanded by the Lenten season. In Dusart's drawing, the entertainment that unfolds before us is so captivating,it is easy to overlook the appalling state of the house, its broken windows, and a spilled basket of coal—not to mention the figures shamelessly urinating, defecating, or drunkenly enjoying their beer.

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout's Young Man Seated on a Barrel, with His Hand Raised to His Head offers an allegory of human frailty or the foible of overindulgence celebrated in Dusart's drawing. Van den Eeckhout's black and white chalk drawings on blue paper have been highly prized since the seventeenth century. A seemingly genteel young man or soldier holds his hand up to shield his eyes from the unrelenting sun, his sensitivity to light perhaps explainable by the contents of the barrel upon which he sits.

Dutch artists had myriad points of access to exotic animals, whether from ships returning from the far corners of the known world, traveling circuses, menageries, street fairs, or markets. Johannes Bronckhorst, who resided in Hoorn, the port of entry for the ships of the Dutch East India Company, had ample opportunity to study the exotic taxidermied birds imported into the country. Bronckhorst accurately rendered the body of his King Bird of Paradise, though he could not have known that it had blue feet or that its two elongated tail wires were decorated with emerald green disk feathers on its tip (the bird's feet and tail feathers were routinely removed by Asian traders, leading to the myth that it had no feet and thus spent its life in perpetual flight).

Cornelis Saftleven's Two Cows by a River with a Church Steeple in the Distance is one of several representations of domestic animals in the exhibition. Before 1600, it was unusual to find cows as the subject of a composition; Saftleven's drawing points to the increasingly important role dairy farming began to play in the Dutch economy over the course of the seventeenth century.

Cow pictures emerged as a genre, and scenes such as this one, which includes two docile animals in an idealized rural landscape, provoked nostalgia for a simple way of life among wealthy Amsterdam collectors.

The Red and White Tulip drawings by Pieter Holsteyn II provide evidence of the enormous popularity and influence of tulips at this time. Coveted collector's items, tulips were status symbols worth literally millions of dollars in today's currency. The surge in tulip prices led to futures markets and speculation, a phenomenon later called tulipmania. So valuable were these bulbs that specialist botanical artists like Holsteyn created elaborate, hand-painted manuscript catalogues in order to market the bulbs to potential clients, and to record each variety's colors. The two sheets on view come from such a disbound album. 

Of the final two Rembrandt drawings in the exhibition, one is clearly connected with a biblical scene; the other presents challenges for scholars, and its subject remains a matter of debate. Study of a Sick Woman for the 'Hundred Guilder Print' and an Alternative Sketch of Her Head, ca. 1647-49, is likely the first of five or six probable studies for Rembrandt's most celebrated etching, Christ Healing the Sick ('Hundred Guilder Print'), and the last held in a private collection. Rembrandt achieved an extremely expressive drawing despite his sparse use of pen and ink, creating this preliminary sketch of the seated woman who appears at the center of the finished etching. Rarely is there such a clear connection between Rembrandt's drawings and prints.

More elusive is the subject of Rembrandt's St. Peter Preaching (?), a group figure study whose tentative subject has not been identified with absolute certainty. If this is indeed a biblical scene, it is the only one for which Rembrandt used black chalk, a medium he normally reserved for landscapes and group studies. An alternative explanation is that this may, in fact, be an elaborate study of figures in exotic costumes, a theme to which Rembrandt turned frequently. 

Abraham Bloemaert's Two Half-Length Studies of a Young Shepherd and a Study of the Upper Body of a Shepherd was the first major figure study to enter the Moore collection. A devout Catholic, Bloemaert received several important commissions from the church, including his first documented altarpiece, Adoration of the Shepherds, with which these studies are connected.

Another important work by Bloemaert, Danaë Receiving the Golden Rain, represents the type of mythological scene that afforded sixteenth- and seventeenth-century artists an acceptable rationale for depicting the female nude. Dating to 1610, the drawing's subject is the Greek myth in which Jupiter, disguised as a shower of golden coins, gains entry to the bedchamber of Danaë, whose father, King Acrisius, has locked her away to prevent her from conceiving the male child prophesied to kill him. Danaë is impregnated by the coins and bears Perseus, who later fulfills the prophecy by accidentally striking Acrusius with his javelin. 


An accompanying, fully illustrated catalogue by Jane Shoaf Turner, head of the Rijksprentenkabinet of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and editor of Master Drawing, includes new research and comprehensive entries on the drawings presented in the exhibition. ($40; available at the Morgan Shop, or online at www.themorgan.org/shop).


Rembrandt and the Crying Boy: A Question of Method 
Wednesday, January 25, 6:30 p.m.

Martin Royalton-Kisch, eminent scholar and former curator of Dutch and Flemish drawings and prints at the British Museum, will discuss the attribution of a newly discovered Rembrandt drawing and explore how decisions on authenticity are currently reached in the fraught field of Rembrandt scholarship.

Rembrandt's World: Dutch Drawings from the Clement C. Moore Collection will be open at 5:30 pm especially for program attendees. 

Tickets: $15; $10 for Members 

Rembrandt's World: Dutch Drawings from the Clement C. Moore Collection 
Gallery Talk
Friday, February 10, 7 p.m.

With Esther Bell, Moore Curatorial Fellow, Department of Drawings and Prints



Friday, March 23, 7 p.m.
(1936, 85 minutes)

Director: Alexander Korda
Charles Laughton stars in this moving, elegant biopic about the Dutch painter. Shot in black and white but with close Rembrandtesque attention to light, this film begins when Rembrandt's reputation was at its height, and tracks his quiet descent into loneliness and isolated self-expression. 


The Lure of the Local in the Dutch Golden Age

with Christopher D.M. Atkins
Tuesday, April 3, 6:30 p.m.
In this lecture, Christopher D.M. Atkins of Queens College and The Graduate Center/The City University of New York will explore why Dutch artists increasingly decided not to travel internationally during a period when their Flemish, French, and Italian counterparts frequently did. Atkins will discuss the depiction of sites and activities culled from Dutch artists' local surroundings, images for which the Dutch Golden Age is so well known.

Rembrandt's World: Dutch Drawings from the Clement C. Moore Collection will be open at 5:30 pm especially for program attendees.

Tickets: $15; $10 for Members

This exhibition is made possible in part by the Rita Markus Fund for Exhibitions.

The catalogue is underwritten by The Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Research and Publications.

Public programs are generously supported by The Netherland-America Foundation, Inc.

Rembrandt's World is organized by Linda Wolk-Simon, Charles W. Engelhard Curator and Head of the Department of Drawings and Prints, and Esther Bell, Moore Curatorial Fellow, Department of Drawings and Prints.

The Morgan exhibition program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

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