The last time I was in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum was closed for a long renovation. It is now reopened and it was a thrill to visit. Some of my favorite paintings live there and getting to see art “in the flesh” is always a thrill no matter how many times you do. The Rijksmusem has a collection of one million objects but they don’t try to display everything all the time. I enjoy museums like that where one is not overwhelmed. We spent most of our time in the Dutch Baroque galleries (1600-1700). For the most part I’m including photographs I took myself so forgive the lopsided funny frames.
The Rikjsmuseum was built in the late 19th century to house the national collection of the Netherlands. Among the treasures are artists of the Baroque including Rembrandt, Vermeer, Ruisdael, and Steen. There are also galleries of every period of Dutch art from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century. Some galleries are devoted to Asian art particularly from Dutch colonies of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Certainly the most famous painting in the museum is Rembrandt’s “Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq”, also called the Night Watch. As you can see it’s a popular destination in the museum. It was never sold and became part of the Dutch National Collection and is considered priceless. In Art 1A we are discussing the value of art so this is an interesting one to consider. Yesterday the Rijksmuseum paid $180 million for two Rembrandt paintings to keep them from going to private collections. Half the money came from the Dutch government and the other half from the museum. Can you imagine that happening in the US?
Rembrandt’s “Sampling Officials” is an example of portrait painting from the 17th century where each individual paid to have their portrait included. Of course, each one had to hold an important spot in the painting to be satisfied so the challenge was how to make they all look good but make it an interesting painting compositionally. You can see a master at work here.
This painting was called the “Night Watch” because it was so dark from years of dirt that some of the figures completely disappeared. One thing I never noticed before is how the foreshortened hand of the Captain that is coming out towards us casts a shadow on the yellow jacket of the figure next to him. Also notice the foreshortened spear. The blue tassle close to the point has very thick paint that really gives the feeling of ropes.
Rembrandt’s “Jewish Bride” has undergone extensive restoration as has the museum and is luminous. As we’ve discussed in several different classes, hands are the hardest thing to draw or paint and check out the hands here. You don’t get much better than this.
The challenge of looking at reproductions is it’s so hard to see the paint surface and Rembrandt’s impasto (thick paint) makes the fabric come alive.
This alcove gallery features three Vermeers, pretty remarkable considering he only painted about 30 in total. Right in the center is “The Milkmaid”.
If you are Mendocino College Art 202 you have already seen this image of “St. Nikolaus” by Jan Steen. If you are in CR’s 1B you will be learning about this artist in a couple of weeks. I learned that I was wrong about it’s interpretations (allegorical). The little girl in the foreground is not being chastised for taking the doll, she’s been given the doll for being such a generous child and it’s the little boy who is dissatisfied with the treat she gave him.
This portrait of a wealthy man and his daughter also by Jan Steen is a little odd because it shows a beggar woman and child. Why would someone want them in their portrait? Is it an allegory about generosity or stinginess? If the latter, it’s hard to imagine the sitter would want to pay for the portrait.
Genre painting is a hallmark of Dutch painting of the 17th century. Genre painting depicts daily life and sometimes is an allegory of moral or religious content. In this case, always one of my favorites is a painting by Pieter de Hooch of a mother picking out lice nits from her daughter’s head, something most mothers have experienced along the way.
My last post was of a real Dutch landscape though it did not have the windmill or water. If you look at any of the photo images of this country they have the same light and perspective of paintings like this one by Jakob Ruisdael. I’ll have more to share in the next few days.