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Dutch masters exhibition opens at Frist

by Cass Teague

Frans Hals (Dutch, ca. 1582/1583–1666). Portrait of Hendrik Swalmius, 1639. Oil on oak panel, 11 x 8 ¼ in. Detroit Institute of Arts, city of Detroit and Founders Society Joint Purchase, 49.347.

‘Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age: Highlights from the Detroit Institute of Arts’ opens at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts on Friday, February 1. Drawn entirely from the superb collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts, this exhibition presents works of the great Dutch masters including Frans Hals, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jacob van Ruisdael and Jan Steen, along with related decorative arts. Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age will remain on view in the Frist Center’s Ingram Gallery through May 19.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to bring to the Frist Center an exhibition entirely devoted to 17th century Dutch painting that has been selected from one of the largest collections of Dutch art outside of the Netherlands,” said Frist Center Executive Director Susan Edwards. “In addition to presenting works of exceptional beauty by numerous Dutch masters, the exhibition offers rare insight into the social and political climate of this beloved era in art history.”

The exhibition, comprised of 73 paintings and 16 decorative arts, sets the work of the great Dutch masters within the larger social, religious and political context of the Dutch Golden Age. Together these works provide a stunning survey of the art produced in the 17th century in the newly independent and prosperous Dutch Republic.

“Rembrandt did not specialize in any one kind of painting, which distinguishes him from his contemporaries,” said Frist Center Curator Trinita Kennedy. “His vast production of paintings ranges across virtually every thematic category: genre, history painting, landscape, portraiture and

still life. He was highly inventive and his work has never lost its extraordinary appeal.”

The exhibition opens with a gallery focusing on the most innovative, versatile and influential Dutch artist of the 17th century. The first gallery also presents works by Rembrandt’s teacher, the Amsterdam painter Pieter Lastman, and Rembrandt’s own students and followers.

“Rembrandt’s students copied and collaborated on his paintings and it can be difficult to distinguish their work from his own,” Kennedy said. “Since the early 19th century, each generation of art historian has sought to define what was painted by Rembrandt, his pupils, his workshop, his circle and his followers. In this exhibition, we get to see how scholars are presently interpreting Rembrandt’s body of work.”

After the opening gallery of works by Rembrandt and his circle, the rest of the paintings in the exhibition will be organized thematically, with galleries dedicated to: ‘Portraiture: Faces of the Dutch Golden Age (featuring works by Frans Hals)’; ‘Biblical Histories: The Impact of Calvinism on Religious Art in the Dutch Republic (Leonaert Bramer)’; ‘Dutch Peasant Scenes and the Perils of Debauchery (Jan Steen)’; ‘Domestic Interiors: Inner Worlds of the Dutch Republic (Pieter de Hooch, Gerard Ter Borch)’; ‘Still-Life Painting: The World in Objects (Willem Kalf; Rachel Ruysch)’; ‘Dutch Architectural Painting: Cityscapes and Church Interiors (Emmanuel de Witte)’; ‘Marine Painting and the Global Dutch Economy (Ludolf Backhuysen)’; and ‘Dutch Landscapes: Local Scenery and Pride of Place (Jacob van Ruisdael).’

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