Going Dutch-17th-Century Style: These Dutch and Flemish Masterworks Include Paintings, Furniture, and Decorative Arts Exceptional for Their Quality, Superb Condition, and Impeccable Provenance

USA TODAY, March 2011 | Go to article overview

Going Dutch-17th-Century Style: These Dutch and Flemish Masterworks Include Paintings, Furniture, and Decorative Arts Exceptional for Their Quality, Superb Condition, and Impeccable Provenance


ONE OF THE WORLD'S best private collections of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, including pieces by Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Gerrit Dou, and Jan Steen has been unveiled in the exhibition, "Golden: Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection," which presents paintings, furniture, and decorative arts exceptional for their quality, superb condition, and impeccable provenance. As exemplars of the Dutch Golden Age, the works are distinguished not only for the glowing quality of light achieved by the most talented artists of the time, but for their place in an unsurpassed period of artistic, cultural, scientific, and commercial accomplishment in the Netherlands.

The 67 exquisite paintings in the collection--portraits, still lifes, landscapes, historical and maritime scenes, city profiles, and genre pieces --were created in the 1600s as the Dutch Republic increased in maritime strength and dominated international trade. Elsewhere in Europe, the nobility and the Catholic Church were the principal patrons of the arts but, in the Netherlands, merchants supported artists in unprecedented numbers.

Dan L. Monroe, executive director and CEO of the Peabody Essex Museum, notes that "the creative revival and widespread patronage of the arts in the Netherlands was by no means limited to paintings. Master craftsmen created works in silver, wood, and mother-of-pearl that were equally prized by their collectors."

The exhibition features 23 examples of furniture and decorative arts. All of these works graced domestic spaces in the Netherlands as people began to invest enthusiastically in fine art and welcome it into their homes.

Eijk van Otterloo was born in the Netherlands and Rose-Marie in Belgium. They met and married in the U.S., where they developed deep ties with New England. The couple enjoys living with their collection, but also is dedicated to sharing it with others, lending to institutions around the globe. "With 'Golden,' we are delighted to have this opportunity to share the entire collection with the American public," they staled. "Within these works of art lie a world of beauty, meaning, and even humor. We hope that visitors to the exhibition receive as much pleasure, inspiration, and delight from them as we do."

Great works of art transcend categorization but, to provide context for the vast flowering of Dutch and Flemish art in the Golden Age, the exhibition is organized to reflect the principal themes that artists explored in this period.

Dawn of the Golden Age. Lured by religions freedom and a better economic climate, many artists fled northward from dries such as Antwerp, Brussels, and Binges to escape persecution and the war with Spain in the late 1500s and early 1600s. They introduced sophisticated new painting styles and, together with Dutch artists, created a climate of excellence in the Dutch Republic.

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Artists emphasized the horizon line and changing weather conditions of the Dutch countryside, often populating scenes with engaging details of daily life. From the 1560s-1620s, Northern Europe endured an extremely cold period known as the "Little Ice Age." Inspired by the winter landscapes of Flemish artists who had fled to Amsterdam, Hendrick Avercamp elevated the subject to a new genre in works such as his "Winter landscape Near a Village."

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Faith and Dutch Pride. Dutch dries swelled with the influx of immigrants from the south taking refuge in religiously tolerant, albeit strongly Protestant, urban environments. Protestant churches in the Netherlands largely were devoid of religious imagery. Instead, artists painted images of biblical figures and contemporary religious structures such as Jan van der Heyden's "View of the Westerkerk, Amsterdam" for display in people's homes as expressions of their piety and affluence. …

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