Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dutch Masterpieces

Portrait of a Man in an Oriental Costume
Rembrandt
1635

This weekend I saw the most wonderful exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery entitled Vermeer, Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art Masterpieces from The Rijksmuseum. Of course, the most spectacular of all the wonderful paintings was this one. I stared at the painting until I felt as if I were falling into it. I was hypnotized. This photograph does not do justice to the painting, and especially to the shimmering silk and gold braid on the man's turban. And in his jacket are beautiful flecks of gold and jewels. If you click on the image and enlarge it, you will see some of the beautiful details. Prepare to be gobsmacked. I could have sworn it was painted with gold paint. I am going back to the art gallery this weekend to look at the painting some more.

The painting has an interesting history. The painting An Oriental (1635) was originally purchased under the assumption that it was a Rembrandt - a notion that was later dismissed by art specialists. Thanks to new research techniques, we have known now for several years that the work is indeed from Rembrandt's hand. Later research revealed, however, that the wood came from the same tree as other panels painted by the master. It was also established that Rembrandt really must have signed the painting himself. It is possible that the panel was painted in Rembrandt's studio, but by one of his pupils, however nowadays the painting is generally regarded as an authentic Rembrandt. ... The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

The exhibit at the VAG is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. In an exclusive presentation, this exhibition will highlight the extraordinary works of art made during the seventeenth century in the Netherlands, a period known as the Golden Age. During this time the emerging Dutch Republic reached unprecedented economic, political and cultural heights and saw a brilliant flowering of artistic talent. This historic exhibition assembles some of the finest paintings by the masters of the Golden Age, as well as an outstanding selection of drawings and decorative arts that testify to the artistic sophistication achieved during this period, providing a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of this vibrant, urbane and remarkably wealthy new society. These stunning works of art—drawn from the renowned collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam—once graced the elegant interiors of the canal houses and country homes built by the aristocracy and the new merchant classes.

Celebrated artists such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals and Gerard Ter Borch created haunting portraits that capture in fine detail the lavish clothing, jewellery and ornate interiors of their patrons. With keen observation, artists Karel du Jardin, Adriaen van Ostade and Johannes Vermeer depicted their own well-appointed studios or created self-portraits, reflecting the rising status of the artist in Dutch society. Jan Steen and Pieter de Hooch created minutely detailed scenes of daily life including humorous and moralizing scenes of children’s games or peasants drinking and dancing. Canvases by artists such as Aelbert Cuyp and Salomon van Ruysdael depict not only the prosperity of burgeoning urban centres, symbolized by new civic and residential building, but also the prosperous Dutch countryside and scenes from artists’ travel abroad. Also included are a large group of still-life paintings that are dazzling in their colour, detail and symbolism. The exhibition will allow visitors to view these splendid works of art within the rich context in which they were made.
... Vancouver Art Gallery

Paintings like these Dutch Masterpieces take my breath away. The artists who could paint like this were truly blessed.

16 comments:

TheChicGeek said...

So beautiful. I have seen an exhibit of the Dutch masters here in Los Angeles. I love the deep, rich, dark colors...and the expressions...so intensely beautiful.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful painting with us :)

Have a Beautiful Day!

SparkleFarkle said...

I know this must sound blasphemous, but remember those old Dutch Masters cigar commercials, where the paintings came to life? They actually had a place in art education, though. They got at least one person to search the art history books: lil' ol' ME!

PinkPanthress said...

I always love how he used mainly earthy tones for the Portraites. :)

Land of shimp said...

There are some artists and musicians who truly seemed to have been touched by the divine. They can inspire actual awe.

Have you ever seen the movie [i]The Girl with the Pearl Earring[/i]? It stars Colin Firth, and Scarlett Johansen. It's very well done, and whereas the work is fictionalized, it is not sensationalized. It's a film that provides a (made up) history for the portrait. It also takes you inside Vermeer's studio.

Such beauty, and often in such humble subjects.

the walking man said...

The art of the Golden Era from the Dutch is great, that they used their sea born and trading powers during the same era to spread commerce in slavery not so much great. Both legacies remain with us in the world to this very day.


History it is a wonderfully horrible thing.

Russell said...

Here in Iowa, our most famous painter -- Grant Wood -- painted cornfields. Albeit they are very well known abstracts of corn and pigs and farmers, they are still not in this league.

Somehow corn does not equate to jewels, unless you are a farmer selling it!

Deb said...

I have been to the Rijksmuseum and was totally entralled with each and every work of his. Seeing it in person has such an effect on you, the tones, strokes and his use of shadows is remarkable.

While in NYC one year, I also visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As a souvenier, I purchased a huge poster entitled "Rembrant/ not Rembrant". The exhibition included works of Rembrant, but also works of his students he trained.

Such a great master!

TC said...

I know what you mean about seeing a painting in the original, it's such a thrill to see something you think is familiar in all it's glory. Sort of like seeing your mechanic in a tuxedo larger than life? Well no but......
Love Rembrandt, loved the girl with the pearl earring, loved the old dutch masters commercials....

Jo said...

TheChicGeek, yes, the deep, rich, dark colors are wonderful, aren't they? It makes them look as if they were painted in candle light.

SparkleFarkle, I don't think we saw those commercials in Canada, but yes, they would spark people's interest in art, wouldn't they? (No pun intended. *heh*)

PinkPanthress, yes, as the ChicGeek says, dark, rich colors -- wonderful!

Land of Shimp, yes, I have seen that movie. In fact, I couldn't wait to see it when it came out, and it did give a good idea of the artist's life at the time, didn't it? It was beautiful.

Mark, well, Josef Stalin decimated the Hermitage Museum and sold off many of the masterpieces in order to pay for the infrastructure in his country (roads, schools...) but he also murdered between 20million and 100 million of his countrymen. I guess capitalism, communism, it can all be ugly. It comes and goes, but the beauty of art is everlasting.

Russell, Grant Wood was a fabulous artist, and his "American Gothic" is one of the great masterpieces. It is an icon...!

Deb, you have been to the Rijksmuseum? Omigosh! That is one place I would love to visit. "Rembrandt/ not Rembrandt" is one of their permanent exhibits.

TC, yes, looking at the painting was like connecting directly with Rembrandt. His art work is his immortality.

pranksygang said...

The painting is amazing! I thought turbans are Indian costumes! I never had a clue that The Dutch use to wear that!

Jo said...

Pranksygang, Rembrandt painted one of his friends in an oriental costume, and this painting is the result. He did a few paintings like this.

Land of shimp said...

I thought that film did a fantastic job of bringing the era to life, and it paid particular attention to something I'd never focused upon in my imagination before: the process of mixing the colors.

I thought the film-maker had a particularly reverential treatment of that. It was honestly moving, and again, something I'd never thought about at any length before that. There was no popping down to a shop to get tubes of paint. The masters were, and are remarkable in that they didn't just create such beautiful, evocative images, they created the actual material that made them, too.

It's easy to believe, when all is taken into consideration, that you are looking at a part of their souls, so much of the painter went into the actual painting. Even though students of various masters learned to copy techniques, attitudes, shading, there is more to the process.

We're so used to imagery, to the extent that we're almost immune to beauty. Click your mouse and see something spectacular, plug in your iPod and be surrounded by the music of your choosing. We're almost desensitized to how readily available truly fantastic things are to us.

Then you see one of these actual paintings in person, and you get a sense of what it must have been like to see something like that at the time. Even thinking about how the colors, and the impact may be slightly worn over time.

One of the many things time has been kind in providing is just simple access. More than the privileged few can view works of arts, but access will never render them mundane.

Uh, sorry. That's a bit of gush, but I'm always so amazed, and touched that such things were created. That there were people capable of seeing, and depicting beauty, when in truth, by our standards, they were often surrounded by what we would consider squalor.

It's a bit like witnessing a miracle.

Shaista said...

Oh yes it is an incredible piece of work - the gold braiding and glass capture his magic with light. I loved the Vancouver Art Gallery - I saw a Frida Kahlo exhibition there once... I spent today at a museum in Cambridge - if you get a chance look at De Heem's painting of Flowers in a Vase - and look closely for the snails, butterflies, moths, crickets, bees... :)
But as you say, it's never the same unless you are face-to-face with the painting..

lovelyprism said...

I would love to visit that exhibit! Hubby's been to the Rijksmuseum but of course all I got was a book about it from the gift shop. Hmph.

ANLIFU said...

it looks like the sultans of Ottoman... lovely!

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