An exhibit of rare, major Dutch and Flemish paintings opened recently at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich.
By Arthur Stampleman
An exhibit of rare, major Dutch and Flemish paintings opened recently at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich. This is the first stop in the United States for “Northern Baroque Splendor, The Hohenbuchau Collection from Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections, Vienna.” The collection was gathered privately, but has been on long-term loan to the collections of the Prince of Liechtenstein.
“The Hohenbuchau Collection is not only remarkable for offering examples of virtually all the genres produced by Netherlandish Old Masters, but also for the rich diversity of size, format, and subject within each genre,” notes Peter C. Sutton, Executive Director of the Bruce Museum and the organizer of the exhibition. The subject matter includes history painting, portraiture, landscapes, seascapes, still life, animal painting, and hunting scenes. Particularly unique to the collection are the number of paintings executed by more than one artist, working in collaboration.
Sixty-four paintings on exhibit in both of the museum’s main galleries with almost 60 artists represented. Among the most recognized names are: Jan Brueghel the Younger, Aelbert Cuyp, Gerard Dou, Jan van Goyen, Peter Paul Rubens, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Salomon van Ruysdael.
The show includes several Mannerist paintings; Mannerism (1520-80) is the movement that comes after the Renaissance and before the Baroque. Figures in Mannerist paintings are often elongated, athletic, and posed in complicated positions. They can also be characterized by simultaneous narration. In Joachim Wtewael’s intimate Venus and Adonis, as the god and goddess embrace, Cupid’s leg pushes against Venus’s, while a whippet affectionately paws him.
Most of the works in the exhibit are from the 17th century Baroque movement, characterized by great drama, rich color, intense light, dark shadows, strong emotion, and a return to naturalism. Hendrick ter Brugghen’s Laughing Bravo with his Dog is a good example of several of those characteristics. Visitors should look for The Steadfast Philosopher by Gerard van Honthorst, the largest work in the show and a fine example of the movement.
Northern Baroque painters were an innovative group, transforming landscaping painting into a separate genre and still life into an independent genre. While 16th-century artists painted fantastical scenery, Baroque artists like van Goyan depicted ordinary rural views, as in A River Landscape with a Parish Church. There are several examples of still life paintings in the exhibit, as well as “gamespieces,” showing the spoils of the hunt, such as a partridge, not surprising since the collection was originally assembled for a hunting lodge.
The exhibit includes very fine, small and meticulously painted genre scenes called “Fijnschilders,” literally fine-painters. The Wine Cellar by Dou, a leader of this movement, is an excellent example. He studied with Rembrandt and his ability to show the difference between light from a candle, a lantern, and a fireplace in one painting is evidence of that master training.
Take the time to notice the differences in the two paintings of Hannibal, created several years apart by Johann Heiss. The earlier work reflects the asymmetrical style and animated figures of Italian Baroque, while the later work reflects the more symmetrical, monumental, and classical approach of Northern Baroque.
The Museum will host an international symposium October 25 as an educational programming complement to the Northern Baroque Splendor exhibition. It will feature some of the world’s foremost authorities on Dutch and Flemish Art. Reservations are required.
The exhibit runs through mid-April. Museum hours are 10 to 5 Tuesday to Saturday and 1 to 5 on Sunday. Docent tours are offered most Fridays at 12:30. For further information, contact 203-869-0376 or visit www.brucemuseum.org.