Dutch Painting, Italian-Style

Article excerpt

Realism is the most celebrated quality of 17th-century Dutch painting. Vermeer shows us the city of Delft or a comfortable living room as the camera might have seen it; Rembrandt's self-portraits persuade us that they are telling the truth about their subject's life, from youth through old age.

But realism is not all the Dutch have to offer. The first American museum exhibition devoted to painting done in the city of Utrecht, currently on view in San Francisco, shows us a more imaginative side of old Dutch art, greatly admired in its own time.

Minutely detailed interior scenes are characteristic of such painters as Terborch, de Hooch, and Vermeer. But Hendrick ter Brugghen's "The Concert" (above) presents his musicians against a vague indoor background. This was the norm in Utrecht. At its height, the Utrecht taste did not run to material or social realism as subject matter in itself. Where Hals or Rembrandt would paint the governing board of a poorhouse or a guild, their counterparts in Utrecht would paint a banquet of the Greek gods. …

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