Golden Age, Golden Art—Dutch and Flemish Masterworks at Legion of Honor
Pictorial precision and painterly brilliance unparalleled in the history of art characterize the Dutch Golden Age, and are now gloriously presented at the new Legion of Honor show, Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection.
Coming from the Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, Massachusetts) the exhibition presents more than 60 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings in portrait, still life, landscape, seascape, genre scene, etc., from a significant private holding accumulated by the American art collectors Eijk and Rose-Marie van Otterloo, born in the Netherlands and in Belgium, respectively.
The embarrassment of riches in this particular art period is mainly attributed to the unique historical situation in Holland where the new society was forming and developing at the time with the center in Amsterdam.
As John E. Buchanan Jr., Director of Museums, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, pointed out at the opening, Americans like to look back at the 17th century Dutch Republic – a precursor to American democracy and governing system.
Strong provinces with able local governments; limitation of the clerical and aristocratic power; maritime proficiency; engineering, scientific and technological advances (telescope, microscope, even wind mills as alternative energy sources); tolerance and freedom of religion; immigration of creative minds and skilled laborers from neighboring countries, and flourishing crafts and trade resulting in the expansion of middle class provided fertile ground for economic prosperity.
The new societal order led to a new kind of art appreciation. Craftsmen and merchants, rather than courts and cathedrals, commissioned art pieces. Tulips from Turkey, wine from France, antique porcelain from China, and local pride and joy—Dutch cheese and butter appeared on small- to medium-sized paintings that graced the walls of middle-class homes.
Cityscapes, harbors, and village planes in wonderful detail, amazingly lifelike portraits and amusing scenes from everyday life and leisure constitute the prevailing subject matter in the Van Otterloos collection, thoughtfully built with the help of Dr. Simon Levie, former director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and Dr. Frederik J. Duparc, former director of the Mauritshuis in The Hague.
A lavish exhibition catalogue, Golden: Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection is published by the Peabody Essex Museum in conjunction with the Mauritshuis, The Hague, and in association with Yale University Press. 2011, and is available in the Museum Store.
Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection runs through October 2 at the Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue and Clement Street, San Francisco. More information at 415-750-3600 or their website.