CAMBRIDGE, MASS. – An exhibition of more than 100 drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection are on exhibit at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum through July 6.
Developed over more than 40 years, the collection includes Dutch and Flemish drawings and is the foremost group of Seventeenth Century Dutch drawings in private hands. The exhibition will highlight works recently acquired by the Abramses and will allow visitors to examine many important drawings that have seldom been on public display.
“Bruegel to Rembrandt” will feature the Abramses’ most significant acquisitions in the past decade, including works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hendrick Avercamp, Jan van Goyen, Joachim Wtewael and Cornelis van Haarlem. The exhibition will also showcase a rare group of watercolors depicting plants and animals. Through their connoisseurship and acquisition of these watercolors, Maida and George Abrams helped establish this genre as a collecting area.
Maida and George Abrams established a dynamic relationship with the Harvard University Art Museums that has lasted since the 1960s. They opened their home to students and scholars, developed a strong relationship with curator William W. Robinson, and have helped build the collection of Dutch drawings at Harvard, having given approximately 200 works of art to the museum.
“Bruegel to Rembrandt” is curated by William W. Robinson, Maida and George Abrams curator of drawings. The Fogg Art Museum is the only US venue on the exhibition’s international tour.
The first section of the show consists of works by landscapists from Pieter Bruegel the Elder and his Flemish followers Hans Bol and Paul Bril to the pioneers of the genre in the northern Netherlands including Claes Jansz, Visscher, Hendrick Avercamp, Esaias van de Velde, Cornelis Vroom, Jan van Goyen and Pieter de Molyn. Among the most significant works in this group is “Wooded Landscape with a Distant View toward the Sea,” 1554. by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
A strong selection of figural works created from the 1590s through the 1620s follows the landscape drawings. This second group includes biblical subjects, portraits, studies of models and scenes of daily life by Hendrick Goltzius, Jacques de Gheyn II, Abraham Bloemaert, Roelandt Savery, Willem Buytewech and others.
This section will include “The Truce,” 1612, a technically flawless and impeccably preserved drawing by Joachim Wtewael that belongs to his renowned suite of drawings known as The Netherlandish History.
Drawings by Rembrandt and his pupils and followers form the third section of the exhibition. Among the most significant works in this group is Rembrandt’s “A Farm on the Amsteldijk,” circa 1650-52.
The next major group features landscapists and marine artists from the 1640s through 1700. Works by Reolant Roghman, Jacob van Ruisdael, Anthonie Waterloo, Isaac de Moucheron, Reinier Zeeman and Willem van Velde the Younger will be included in “Bruegel to Rembrandt.”
Figure and genre drawings from the same period include works of peasant subjects by Haarlem artists, Adriaen and Isack van Ostade, Cornelis Bega and Cornelis Dusart. Cornelis Saftleven’s “Standing Drinker,” 1636, exemplifies the ingenious technique and pungent characterization that distinguish the finest of Saftleven’s signed and dated figure drawings.
Natural history illustration includes examples by Johannes Bronkhorst, Maria Sibylla Merian and her stepfather Jacob Marrel. “Two East Indian Birds” by Johannes Bronkhorst (1646-1727) features a long-billed spider-hunter and a Buru paradise-kingfisher found only on Buru Island and not described by scientists until 1790 and 1825, respectively, making Bronkhorst’s drawings significant milestones in the taxonomic history of the species.
The exhibition is complemented by a 300-page catalog published by the Harvard University Art Museums and distributed by Yale University Press.
The lecture “An Excellent Avocation: Collecting Drawings in 18th Century Holland” will be presented on April 3 at 6 pm in the Sackler lecture hall. The speaker is Michiel C. Plomp, associate curator of drawings and prints, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
On April 13, at 2 pm, in the Fogg Art Museum there will be a gallery talk by Edouard Kopp, Lynn and Phillip A. Strauss Intern, drawings department.
The Fogg Art Museum is at 32 Quincy Street. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday, 1 to 5 pm. For information, call 617-495-9400 or visit artmuseums.harvard.edu.