Foundations of the world as we know it
Like the art it produced, the Baroque era was manifold - spacious and dynamic, brilliant and colorful, theatrical and passionate, sensual and ecstatic, opulent and extravagant, versatile and virtuoso.
Join us for the art tour Baroque 1620-1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence at V&A by Andrew Sprira
Close your day:
Friday, the 16th of March 18:30 - 21:00
Wednesday, the 21st of March 13:00 - 15:30
Saturday, the 24th of March 13:00 - 15:30
1. The meaning and time frame
Baroque - the origin of the word is not clear. It may come from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning an irregularly shaped pearl. Certainly, the term originally was used in a disparaging sense, especially in connection with post- Renaissance architecture, which nineteenth-century critics perceived as decadent Classical: unstructural, overornamented, theatrical, and grotesque. "Baroque" term has been included in the art-historical vocabulary for many years as a blanket designation for the art of the period roughly covering 1600 to 1750 and encompassing the careers of some of the greatest painters sculptors, and architects the Western world has ever produced.
2. The age of expansion following on an age of discovery
It was an age of expansion following on an age of discovery, and its expansion led to still further discovery. The rising national powers colonized the globe. Wars between Renaissance cities were supplanted by wars between continental empires, and the history of Europe was influenced by battles fought in the North American wilderness and in India. The art of the Baroque period reflects this growing nationalism. In France, for example, it centers around the powerful monarchy; in Italy, it is the Catholic art of the popes, in opposition to the art of the Protestant North.
Baroque extended well beyond the earth in the conceptions of the new astronomy and physics proposed by Galileo, Kepler, and Newton. The same laws of mechanics were found to govern a falling apple Humanity's optical range was expanding into seeing marco and microscopic world.
The Baroque is almost obsessively interested in the space of the unfolding universe. Descartes makes extension (space and what occupies it) the sole physical attribute of being; only mind and extension exist, the former proving the real ity of the latter in Descartes's famous phrase Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). Pascal confesses in awe that "the silence of these infinite spaces frightens me." Milton expresses the Baroque image of space in a phrase: "the vast and boundless deep.
3. Matter of motion, space and time
The Baroque scientist comes to see physical nature as matter in motion through space and time; the latter two are thought of as the conditions of the first. The measurement of motion is made possible by the new mathematics of analytical geometry and the infinitesimal calculus, and experiment comes to be accepted as the prime method for getting at the truth of physical nature. Time, like space and motion, is a preoccupation of the creative Baroque mind, in art as well as in science. The age-old sense of time, rich with religious, philosophical, psychological, and poetic import persists alongside the new concept of it as a measurable property of nature.
Time "the subtle thief of youth" that steals away the lives of all of us; that, in the end, reveals the truth, vindicates goodness, and rescues innocence; that demolishes the memory of great empires; and that points to the ultimate judgment of humankind by God-this sense of time pervades the art and literature of the Baroque. The sonnets of Shakespeare dwell on the mutability and brevi ty of life and on time's destruction of beauty ("that time will come/and take my love away"). The great landscapes of van Ruisdael suggest the passage of time in hurrying clouds, restless sea, and ever-changing light. Painters and sculptors, eager to make action explicit and convincing, depict it at the very moment it is taking place as in Bernini's David.
A guided history of art tour of the National Gallery
Choose your date
Wednesday, the 17th of January 13:00 - 15:30
Friday, the 19th of January 18:30 - 21:00
Tuesday, the 23rd of January 13:00 - 15:30
Friday, the 26th of January 18:30 - 21:00
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to look at some of the finest paintings in the National Gallery and see beyond the initial beauty? To understand some of the depth, the history, the pioneering brilliance and the emotion that lies behind the bold but delicate brush strokes of the great Venetian art of a golden era. Wouldn’t it be great to start 2018 with a better understanding and appreciation of history, culture and art?
A step back in time to 16th century Venice and Venetian art
16th century Venice must have been an inspirational and exciting place and time. Its governance was stable and fair and for several hundred years, the Republic of Venice had been a powerful financial and maritime centre.
It was also a pivotal point for trade between Europe and the East and that inevitably meant silks, spices, new pigments and of course all the accompanying trappings and wealth.
A city to inspire
Perhaps because if its unique position and architectural beauty, rising up from the shimmering Venetian lagoon, by the 16th century, Venice was long established as a haven of talent and creativity.
Marco Polo and Casanova are some of the better-known writers of the time. Its beautiful glass trade had developed during the 13th century and by the 15th century it was the European capital for printing. Music too played a major cultural role in 16th century Venice and there was a collision of Gothic and Byzantine influences reflected so evidently in Venice’s architecture and sculpture.
With many wealthy families and merchants, Venice was also a magnet for intellectuals, culture and study. Although against this heady backdrop, it shouldn’t be forgotten that during the 14th, 15th and 16th century, the Republic also suffered under the atrocities of war and the plague. It short, Venice had a hedonistic combination of wealth and culture, beauty and tragedy.
Art, history and new collaboration with fashion!
The beginnings of modern life as we know it
The Renaissance period was of course a profoundly influential period, not just for art but for many other social, cultural and scientific developments.
It must have been an incredibly exciting period to live in. Trade and travel became easier. New countries were discovered and there was an increased understanding of astronomy. New technology like the printing press meant a proliferation of literature, such as poetry, novels and new and philosophical ideas.
It was a period of relative stability and prosperity, with a new wealthy class emerging. But at the same time, there was increased interest and respect for the Greeks and Romans, their knowledge, philosophy and values.
Renaissance art is both legendary and pivotal in the history of art.
The High Renaissance framed between about 1495 and the date of its own invasion and sack in 1527, Rome, The Papal State, took the place of Florence and laid claim to its artistic preeminence.
At the same time, Rome became the artistic capital of Europe. The popes, living in the opulent splendor of secular princes, embellished the city with great works of art, inviting artists from all over Italy and providing them with challenging tasks.
Famed artists of the time such as Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo changed the status of artists for the first time, from one of a humble craftsman to that of creative genius. Artists during the short duration of the High Renaissance produced works of such authority that generations of later artists were instructed by them.
New paints, such as oils, meant new mediums to work in. New techniques such as perspective, use of light and shadow and improved composition meant a new realism.
Painting, sculptures, architecture and decorative art flourished, influenced by the Greeks and Romans but also with an element of enchantment with nature and natural beauty.
And behind every work of art, was a story. Sometimes mysterious, often symbolic, philosophical or religious. Understanding the art of the Renaissance period sheds a light and understanding not just on the period itself but on life today as we know it: it explains attitudes, styles, concepts. It explains how and why we evolved into the society we are and what from the past, still influences us today.
The new Triumph of the Renaissance Tour
All of which is why I am so excited about my next art history tour, Triumph of the Renaissance which I’m running in conjunction with Andrew Spira. It will be at the National Gallery in London and is “a journey from Italy to the Northern Europe of Early and High Renaissance art by masters such as Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and more.”
Making art relevant
The aim of the tour is really twofold. It’s a luxurious look and examination of some of the greats of this time, which will leave you with a deeper understanding of both them and art in general.
If you’ve ever spent time in a gallery but felt you were really only skimming the surface in terms of appreciating and understanding the genius and beauty of some of the works of art, this tour is ideal.
Each artist and his work will be explained in a compelling and very memorable way. The stories behind the work will unfold for you like the pieces of a puzzle falling into place. You’ll start to understand the social and cultural significance and recognise Renaissance concepts in today’s world.
The art tour takes place at the National Gallery throughout December on the following dates:
Friday the 8th of December 18:30 - 21:00 with Andrew Spira
Saturday the 16th of December 13:00 - 15:30 with Andrew Spira
Thursday the 28th of December 13:00 - 15:30 with Hanna Yakovleva
Saturday the 30th of December 13:00-15:30 with Hanna Yakovleva
The cost is just £55 and you can book your place via this link. The ticket includes a networking after the lecture and tea/coffee/lunch in the museum restaurant (food and beverages are not included).
A new collaboration
I’m also very excited about a new collaboration with Olga Anderson of the Anderson Club.
Olga is a talented, up and coming designer. Her concepts and ideas are feminine but strong and independent. But perhaps most importantly, her designs are clearly influenced by her knowledge and interest in history, art and historical fashion.
From the fabrics she uses, such as brocade, to the cut and style of her designs, you can trace the influences of different generations and different cultures.
I can’t wait to explore some of the Renaissance fashion and fashion stories with her. After all, it was a period in time, when perhaps for the first time, clothes, designs and attire took on new meaning. They became “fashion” rather than “function” and I’m sure there is much that will influence Olga’s future collections.
Hanna Yakovleva, founder of Private Art Education
Three women who inspired great works of art
1. Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci (b. 1453; d. 1476)
Introduced to the nobility and painters of Renais. sance Florence by her husband Marco Vespucci (cousin of the famed explorer Amerigo Vespucci), La Bella Simonetta was renowned as the most beautiful woman in the city; many of Florence's leading men became besotted with her.
Botticelli used her image in almost all of his work, painting her as the Virgin Mary, Athena and Venus (pictured). She died of tuberculosis at age 22 the entire city was said to have mourned, with thousands attending her funeral, and Botticelli continued to paint women whose features resembled hers. He requested to be buried at her feet in the Chiesa d'ognissanti, the Vespucci family church, where their graves remain to this day.
2. Hendrickje Stoffels (b. 1626; d. 1663)
Stoffels moved to Amsterdam in 1647 after her father's death and mother's remarriage forced her out of the family home. She took a post as housekeeper to Rembrandt, then at the pinnacle of his fame yet still grieving after his wife's death four years earlier. They became lovers, and she modelled for several portraits by the Dutch master After becomingpregnant by Rembrandt in 1654, Hendrickje was called before the Reformed Church Council to defend their common-law marriage: she was denounced for living like a whore' and excommunicated. They remained together for the next nine years, until she died during a plague epidemic.
3. Dora Maar (b. 1907: d., 1997)
Pablo Picasso had a string of muses, mistresses and lovers throughout his long career. Yet, there are few who compare, in terms of significance and influence, to Dora Maar. Her relationship with Picasso lasted over a decade, and during this time she was a source of inspiration, an archivist, and assistant, and later a worthy opponent when their relationship soured.
In 1936 the poet Paul Eluard introduced Maar, a successful surrealist photographer and painter, to his friend Pablo Picasso. Entranced by both her self mutilation (she cut her fingers at the table when they met and sad beauty (she became his weeping woman), he embarked on a fierce 10-year love affair with her. Maar served as a model for many of his masterworks, spurring him on politically and documenting his creation of Guernica with her photograph After he left her for the young painter Francoise Gilot in 1944, Maar found solace in Roman Catholicism ('After Picasso, God,' she wrote), and was admitted into a psychiatric hospital, undergoing shock therapy, and later analysis, but remained obsessed with their passionate relationship. She died reclusive and p never having sold the artworks Picasso gave her which could have garnered her a fortune.
Learn more about muses in art - book our private art lecture:
7 Women Who Inspired Great Works of Art
"Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.”
Tuesday, the 10th of October 15:30-18:00
Friday, the 13th of October 18:30-20:30
Saturday, the 14th of October 13:00-15:30
French impressionist painter Claude Monet (b. 14 November 1840; d. 5 December 1926), leader and foremost practitioner of the impressionist school, was born in Paris but moved to Le Havre; his talents were first spotted when, as a boy, he would sell charcoal caricatures on the streets.
At 16 he was put in touch with the landscape paint Eugene Boudin, who quickly became the young artist's mentor, teaching him the art of oil painting and, crucially, instilling in the teenager the importance of painting directly from nature and en plein (outdoors).
Monet moved to Paris in 1859, enrolling in one of the great Parisian art academies. Yet he soon became disillusioned with the traditional style being taught, so after a brief stint in the army, he entered the studio of Charles Gleyre, where he and Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Jean Bazille would define impressionism.
After several unsuccessful attempts to paint traditionally led to financial hardship, Monet threw himself into the seine in a failed suicide attempt in 1868. A newspaper article reviewing Monet's Impression, Sunrise (1872) which was exhibited in an 1874 group show slated the avant-garde style with the term “Impressionists" and the new movement was christened.
By the late 1880s Monet was finding a wide audience appreciative of his heavy brushstrokes and nameless colour patches. Cézanne himself claimed that Monet had "the most prodigious eye since painting began”.
A one-man exhibition organised by art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel sparked financial success at last for Monet. Having moved in 1883 to a beautiful country house in Giverny, from 1899 he worked almost exclusively on painting the water lilies that floated on the pond his gardens. Over the next two decades his health deteriorated as he slowly lost his sight, and he succumbed to lung cancer in 1926.
Source: The Observer Book of ART by editor Carl Wilkinson, p. 50
Issues and Context of Modern Painters by John Ruskin
By Hanna Yakovleva
‘There is no more in Turner’s painting of water surface than any philosophy of reflection.'
‘The marvellous brilliance of the arrangement of color in this picture… to my mind, one of Turner’s leading works in oil.’
‘The most perfectly beautiful piece of colour of all that I have seen produced by human hands, by any means, or at any period’. ‘No man had ever painted the surface of calm water but Turner’ - Sensuous & literal element.'
'Nothing could be more faithful than the boat, … it occupies the center, … a stream of spending color fell from it.'
'Sea is not plaint gray sea surface but playing surface, full of indefinite hue.'
Quites from Modern Painters by John Ruskin in the description of this painting.
John Ruskin (1819-1900) was one of the greatest Victorians, the leading English art critic, art patron, watercolorist, social critic and philosopher. His range of interests and achievements were very wide. It was fundamental for him to make links between all subjects and disciplines - for example, nature and art, science and religion. Somehow he could always see the whole picture. Leo Tolstoy said that Ruskin was: "one of those rare men who think with their hearts."
Ruskin was extremely influential in the latter half of the 19th century by his concerns and ideas, difficult to overestimate his influence on environmentalism, sustainability and craft. Looking ahead, providing some vivid numbers: “Ruskin’s thirty-nine volumes of work contain nine million words; his correspondence ran to twenty thousand letters; his sketches, drawing and paintings would also run into the thousands.”
The most influential artist through Ruskin’s art critic career and beyond that was, undoubtedly, Turner.
He first became aware of Turner’s work at the age of thirteen, having a gift book of poems with artist’s engravings. Ruskin was touched by that experience so much that later he will describe it: ‘I had of looking carefully at Turner's work, and I might, not without some appearance of reason, attribute to the gift the entire direction of my life's energies'.
Ruskin should have visited annual exhibitions of the Royal Academy and the British Institution from the late 1830’s. He together with his father began to collect Turner’s works, owned few important oil paintings and some watercolors.
Their first meeting at the house of the picture dealer was in 1840 and Ruskin claimed that Turner was ‘the great [artist] of the age… at once the painter and the poet of the day’ despite of everybody’s opinion of him being unintellectual and vulgar, as he wrote in his diary. Indeed, Turner was mocked by the critics and unappreciated by the public due to artist’s new true-to-life style.
WHAT WAS IT in William Turner's art that so immensely captured John Ruskin that he almost devoted his life to the advocacy of it? Maybe he saw some of his own transformed desires in the works of the great master of light, surf and rock. I deliberately avoid the modern term sublimation, since this mental state neither was modern nor sublime, but heavy as the stones of Venice he also chose to write about and life surely taught Ruskin lessons as harsh as those ethics of the dust he lectured the young girls at Winnington school about.
SUBLIMATE - verb
1 [with object] (especially in psychoanalytic theory) divert or modify (an instinctual impulse) into a culturally higher or socially more acceptable activity: people who will sublimate sexuality into activities which help to build up and preserve civilization he sublimates his hurt and anger into humour.
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
One of the year's most anticipated architectural endeavors, the Exhibition Road Quarter designed by Amanda Levete and her practice, AL_A, opens today at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The bold addition features the world's first all-porcelain public courtyard, paved with 11,000 handmade porcelain tiles in 15 different patterns. The tiles were manufactured by Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum, the Netherlands' oldest registered company, established in 1572.
What: The Exhibition Road Building Project at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) includes a new entrance, courtyard and subterranean gallery for temporary exhibitions.
Architect: Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A)
How big: 6,360 sq. m
How much: £49.5m
Funders: The Monument Trust, the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Headley Trust and the Garfield Weston Foundation.
What they say: “The scheme will transform a previously inaccessible back-of-house space into the open courtyard for installations, events and a café, which, by revising the existing screen designed by Sir Aston Webb, will create a new relationship between the heart of the V&A and Exhibition Road.
What the source says: The development includes the Sainsbury Gallery for temporary exhibitions and the Blavatnik Hall, named after the patron Leonard Blavatnik who donated several million pounds towards the new wing.
Design Society / V&A, Shenzhen
What: The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London will open a new design gallery, within Design Society, in collaboration with China Merchants Shekou Holdings (CMSK) in Shekou in Shenzhen, southern China.
Architect: Japanese architecture studio Maki & Associates
How big: The museum will be part of the 70,000 sq. m Sea World Arts and Culture Centre
How much: undisclosed
Funder: China Merchants Shekou Holdings
What they say: “The [gallery] design features three cantilevered volumes atop a deconstructed plinth, opening up horizons to the mountain, the sea and the city.”
What the source says: Under the terms of the five-year partnership with CMSK, the V&A will organise ongoing presentations of 20th- and 21st-century international design from its collection in the V&A Gallery.
Louvre Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi
What: The long awaited Louvre Abu Dhabi, a major encyclopaedic museum in the Middle East, is due to open on Saadiyat Island, the new museum and culture quarter developed by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.
Architect: Jean Nouvel
How big: 9,200 sq. m of galleries for permanent displays; 2,000 sq. m for temporary exhibitions.
How much: The project has been financed to the tune of $1bn by the Emirati government.
Funder: In 2007, France and the United Arab Emirates signed an unprecedented agreement to create the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
When: No official opening date has been announced but the building is scheduled for completion by the spring.
What they say: “Louvre Abu Dhabi is intended to be a place of discovery, exchange and education. It will also play an important social role in United Arab Emirates. In this respect, it can be seen as a product of the 18th-century Enlightenment in Europe. This movement gave birth to the principle of the encyclopaedic and universal museum housing diverse collections of works for the purposes of public display and scientific study.”
What the source says: Twelve other French institutions, including the Centre Pompidou, have agreed to contribute loans in exchange for a €265m fee spread over 15 years. In 2008, the Louvre’s then-director, Henri Loyrette, told us that the deal represented “a revolution” for French museums because it provided them “with what you in the US and UK are used to—namely, an endowment fund”.
Sources: London CNN
London’s largest outdoor exhibition, featuring 24 leading artists, opened this summer in The Regent’s Park.
Frieze Sculpture will open from 5 July to 8 October, presenting a free out- door exhibition for London and its international visitors throughout the summer months. Selected by Clare Lilley (Director of Programme, Yorkshire Sculpture Park) and featuring leading galleries, Frieze’s rst-ever summer exhibition in The Regent’s Park will bring together 25 new and signi cant works by 20th-century masters and leading contemporary artists from around the world, including Magdalena Abakanowicz, Rasheed Araeen, Urs Fischer, KAWS, Alicja Kwade, Michael Craig-Martin, Jaume Plensa, Thomas J Price, Ugo Rondinone, Sarah Sze, Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Young.
Read more from the source
HOW OUR LECTURES AND PRIVATE TOURS CAN HELP YOU MEET EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE
If you’re interested in joining Private Art Education as a Gold or Platinum Member, you’ve probably gone over the potential benefits behind such a positive decision to change your life. We’ve explained them pretty neatly ourselves, but there is one aspect we’d like to expand on today: networking.
As you know by now, our events consist of private tours of London’s finest art galleries and museums, exclusive lectures about specific topics related to art exhibitions in the city, private viewings and VIP access to various art-related events over the year, as well as invitations to members’ only events at The Arts Club and South Kensington Club.
NETWORKING: THE HIDDEN PERK OF ART TOURS & LECTURES
What that means is that we provide a thorough and easy-to-consume art education while meeting like-minded art lovers and professionals, in an environment that is friendly, pleasant and sophisticated, as we tread the halls of London’s iconic art galleries and museums. But when we talk about networking at our events, we refer to the hidden perk – meeting people who will influence and improve your life and even your career in ways you may not have thought possible.
If you come to one of our private tours or lectures, you are most likely to share the learning experience with a vibrant mix of people, from Google executives, successful entrepreneurs and young professionals the fashion and art world, to established artists, connoisseurs, art collectors and dealers, as well as guest curators, all connected through their love of fine arts.
During these same interactions, you get to engage in meaningful conversations with people you wouldn’t easily meet elsewhere. London is a big city, and so is its lush and diverse art scene.
NETWORKING HELPS WITH BUSINESS LEADS & ART PURCHASE ADVICE
If you’re an art dealer, for example, you may get the unique opportunity of meeting potential buyers during our Private Art Education events, as our audience consists of people who are interested in learning more about art and building, if not expanding, their private art collection.
Many join our lectures to better understand the magnetism behind specific artists and periods, in order to later make better decision when purchasing similar works of art.
If you’re a novice art collector, on the other hand, looking for an exciting investment opportunity, you will meet art professionals who will be able to guide you in making your first (or tenth, or twentieth!) purchase. They are often guests during our private viewings and our lecturers are always eager to help new buyers when it comes to choosing the right art work for their collection or home.
NETWORKING OPENS THE DOOR TO OPPORTUNITIES AND CONNECTIONS
Being in the same room with professionals of the art world is the perfect opportunity to meet artists – this bodes well for those of you looking to make a career change or get an internship in one of London’s prime art galleries and museums. If anything, our members’ only events at The Arts Club and South Kensington Club will introduce you to people otherwise difficult to meet elsewhere.
These events are perfect for corporations, law firms and banks, excellent when included in the company benefits, as more and more career professionals are interested in the arts. Not to mention the fact that they’re great for entertaining clients over a glitzy champagne reception!
We provide a relaxed and friendly environment, making it easier for our guests to meet each other and start conversations that could easily lead to fruitful collaborations. It beats submitting a curriculum vitae at any time!
On top that, networking at Private Art Education events often gives a confidence boost – by pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know. The more you do this, the easier it gets and the more people you meet – people who are relevant to your business, your career and your passion for art. And in a city as big and as competitive as London, connections will take you a long way.
MAKING NEW FRIENDS
While this is more personal rather than professional, gaining new friends through networking at our events is a big benefit nonetheless. Many friendships form as a result of networking, mostly because you are all like-minded individuals, with great love of art and everything it entails.
You all want to grow, as people and as professionals, by enriching your art knowledge and overall culture, and you get to meet and even help each other out regularly – so naturally strong friendships tend to form in the process.
And last, but certainly not least, our exclusive events are wonderful for those who are new to London, just visiting or established, as they offer the opportunity to network, meet new people and enjoy some classy entertainment surrounded by beautiful works of art.
Discover the benefits of joining Private Art Education as a Gold Member and don’t miss this unique opportunity to meet some of London’s eminent artists and curators, dealers and collectors, as we host a number of private viewings, tours and lectures.
Tuesday, the 20th of June 13:00 - 15:30
Thursday, the 29th of June 13:00 - 15:30
Saturday, the 1st of July 13:00 - 15:30
Free for members, just RSVP the date
Historical Context and Major Features
The Dutch Protestants and the Flemish Catholics went their separate ways after the later sixteenth century. The situation is so completely different in Holland that it is difficult to imagine how, within such a tiny area, two such opposite artistic cultures could flourish.
Although closer in outlook to the Germans, the Dutch were ethnically the same as the Flemish, who were, in turn, closer in viewpoint to their neighbors to the south - the French. A Catholic, aristocratic, and traditional culture reigned in the Flanders of Rubens.
In Holland, severe Calvinistic Protestantism was puritanical toward religious art, sculptural or pictorial although many of the Dutch were Catholics, including a number of painters.
The churches were swept clean of images, and any recollection of the pagan myths, the material of Classicism, or even historical subjects, was prohibited in art.
During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, religious subjects and, later, Classical and historical subjects had been the major stimuli for artistic activity.
Liberated of these sources, what remained to enrich the lives of wealthy Hollanders? For they were wealthy!
During the early part of Spanish rule, the Dutch, like the Flemish, prospered The East India Company was formed, and the discovery of the New World opened up further opportunities for trade and colonization. The wars of independence from Spain made Holland the major maritime country of Europe; its closest rival was England, another Protestant power in the times of the Spanish decline.
The great Dutch commercial cities, such as Haarlem and Amsterdam, had been stimulated and enriched, and civic pride was strong. Although it was not internationally recognized until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Holland in fact had been independent from Spain since about 1580 and was extremely proud of its hard-won freedom.
The Dutch are 'the envy of some, the fear of others, and the wonder of all their neighbours'. So wrote the English ambassador to the Dutch Republic, Sir William Temple, in 1673.
In the 17th century, the Dutch republic became an economic and military superpower. It was also an era in which Dutch science and arts blossomed. This era is usually referred to as the Dutch Golden Age.
A Woman Peeling Apples (c. 1663) is a painting by the Dutch Golden Age painter Pieter de Hooch in the Wallace Collection in London. It is a genre painting showing a quiet domestic scene from the time, like most of de Hooch's works.
The elaborate fireplace and fur and embroidery in the mother's clothes show a prosperous household, and the cupid between the two figures implies a happy one. Its sensitive handling of light — in particular, natural light filtered into an otherwise unlit interior space — led 19th century art historians to attribute it to Johannes Vermeer, with whose work the painting does bear strong similarities. However, Vermeer's work typically portrayed a woman working alone instead of a family scene as in A Woman Peeling Apples. Most scholars also now believe that de Hooch was influenced by Vermeer instead of Vermeer by de Hooch.
In the right-hand corner of a room sits a woman, facing the spectator. She wears a black velvet jacket trimmed with fur, a red skirt, and a white apron. In her lap she holds a basket of apples which she is peeling. She holds out a long rind in her right hand to a little girl standing to the left and seen in profile. A tub is on the floor at the woman's feet. To the left is a fireplace with a kettle on the fire. The fireplace is lined with Delft tiles, and is enclosed with pilasters worked in low relief. Behind the woman hangs a mirror in a black frame. The sunlight enters through a window above to the right and illumines the wall and a corner of the mirror. The floor is composed of brown and white tiles.
Still life with a Page - the dramatic, monumental composition set in a grand architectural interior is typical of Fyt’s work and of mid-seventeenth century Flemish still-life painting in general. A note of extra drama is added to the composition by the blood-stained cloth and the contrast of the dead game with the live monkey, dog and parrot. The boy appears to have been added by another artist: an attribution to Erasmus Quellinus has been suggested.
The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals is the exuberant half-length portrait, a young man poses, arm rakishly akimbo, against a plain grey background. The painting is inscribed with the date (1624) and the sitter’s age (26). The work is unique in Hals’s male portraiture for the rich colour that is largely imparted by the sitter’s flamboyant costume: a doublet embroidered with fanciful motifs in white, gold and red thread, with a gilded rapier pommel visible at the crook of his elbow.
Neither the identity of the sitter nor the function of the portrait has yet been firmly established. The dazzling costume may offer some important clues, however. The motifs embroidered on the sitter’s doublet have been identified in emblem books of the time and were symbolic of the pleasures and pains of love; they include arrows, flaming cornucopiae and lovers’ knots. As allusions to gallantry and courtship, they may indicate that the work was painted as a betrothal portrait (cf. Van Dyck, P94), although no companion piece has been identified. It has also been suggested that the motifs (particularly the caduceus, the attribute of the Roman god Mercury) allude to an occupation in commerce and Pieter Biesboer has recently proposed that the sitter is Tieleman Roosterman, a wealthy Harlem textile merchant.
Hobbema, a pupil of Jacob van Ruisdael, began painting his characteristic richly textured woodland views in around 1662. This painting is an excellent example of this new phase in his art and may be dated to 1663 – 5. It demonstrates his delight in creating woodland vistas, varied with differing tree forms and patches of light, opening onto illuminated clearings with picturesque cottages. Even with the threat of an impending storm, his vision of nature is cheerfully domestic, in contrast to the dramatic intensity of his former master, Ruisdael.
Gardner, Art History Through the Ages,
The Wallace Collection website