Published: January 27, 2009
Visitors will travel back in time to Dutch cities of the Seventeenth Century during “Pride of Place: Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age,” on view February 1 to May 3 in the West Building, National Gallery of Art.
The exhibition of 48 paintings and 22 maps, atlases and illustrated books surveys the Dutch cityscape, from wide-angle panoramas depicting the urban skyline with its fortifications, windmills and church steeples to renderings of daily life along the canals, city streets and in town squares.
The booming economy of the Dutch Republic fostered a new genre of painting in the Seventeenth Century: the cityscape. Some 40 Dutch master artists are represented in the exhibition, including Gerrit Berckheyde, Aelbert Cuyp, Carel Fabritius, Jan van Goyen, Jan van der Heyden, Pieter de Hooch, Jacob van Ruisdael, Pieter Saenredam and Jan Steen.
A standout, and only seen in this exhibition venue, is Van Goyen’s 15-foot-long “View of The Hague from the Southeast,” circa 1650, which he painted for the town hall. Other cities depicted in the exhibition include Haarlem, Amsterdam, Delft, Dordrecht, Hoorn and Nijmegen.
“We are proud to present the visual riches of these special paintings in this tour through Dutch city streets in the Golden Age,” said director Earl A. Powell III. “We are greatly indebted to lenders who have generously shared their valuable works, among them numerous museums and many private collectors whose paintings have never been shown to the public.”
Paintings and maps will allow visitors a closer look at alleys and prominent streets, cluttered canals, locks, gates, busy squares, loading docks and markets. The paintings portray many scenes and skylines that are still recognizable in the Netherlands of the Twenty-First Century.
The exhibition opens with profiles of cities seen from the water, including the National Gallery of Art’s “Maas at Dordrecht,” 1650s, by Aelbert Cuyp. A variety of maps and atlases in the next room includes an allegorical map of the Netherlands in the form of a heraldic lion, known as “Leo Belgicus.” Also on view is Jan Christiaen Micker’s oil painting “Bird’s Eye View of Amsterdam,” circa 1652, an adaptation of a map made in 1538. The painting, which resembles a modern aerial photograph, captures the patterns of shadows cast by clouds over the sun-drenched city below.
Van Goyen’s “View of The Hague from the Southeast,” circa 1650, a profile view of this urban center as seen from the surrounding flat countryside, is enlivened by boats and figures traveling along the waterway leading to Delft. This painting will dominate a room showcasing views of other cities, such as Abraham de Verwer’s tranquil and luminous “View of Hoorn,” circa 1645, a recent acquisition by the National Gallery of Art.
Amsterdam was the fastest-growing city in the Netherlands. In 1652 Amsterdam’s town hall, which was painted by Pieter Saenredam, burned in a fire that was recorded by many artists, including Jan Beerstraten. A new town hall (the present Palace on Dam Square), completed in 1665, was considered the eighth wonder of the world. In 1667 Jan van der Heyden painted the town hall from an extreme vantage point, creating the sensation of the viewer looking up at this enormous structure.
Many homes in Delft had courtyards extending the domestic realm to the outdoors. These became the central feature of Pieter de Hooch’s paintings, including his fine “Portrait of a Family in a Courtyard in Delft,” circa 1658. Jan Steen’s celebrated painting, “Adolf and Catharina Croeser on the Oude Delft,” 1655, pairs portraiture and the cityscape genre. Carel Fabritius’ evocative “View in Delft,” 1652, raises many questions about the role of perspective and optics in Dutch cityscape paintings.
“Pride of Place” is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog.
The year 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage from Amsterdam to New York Harbor. “Henry Hudson 400” will commemorate the legendary voyage with festivals in both Amsterdam and New York.
The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden are on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW. For more information, www.nga.gov or 202-737-4215.
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