2019 ROM. In the Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings

Thursday, May 30, 2019 6:36:00 PM

(ROM) - For the first time in Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) presents In the Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, an extraordinary collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. Opening Saturday, June 1, 2019, the exhibition features 70 works by major artists of the period including Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, and Jan Steen. Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), In the Age of Rembrandt showcases the technical brilliance, naturalism, and layered meanings characteristic of 17th century Dutch art, from the scientific precision of a floral still life to symbolic details in a scene from daily life. The ROM is the exhibition’s exclusive Canadian venue.

“Featuring Dutch works that are remarkable in breadth and quality, In the Age of Rembrandt represents a pivotal moment,” says Josh Basseches, ROM Director & CEO. “The exhibition explores a time of unparalleled trade, prosperity, and scientific advancement, when art flourished and became a meaningful part of everyday life. Situated adjacent to the ROM’s renowned Samuel European Galleries, these collections together offer visitors an intimate perspective on the role of European art and culture in society at the dawn of the modern age.”

Coinciding with the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death, the exhibition includes the Dutch master’s Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh (1632), a moving depiction in nearly perfect condition that provides a glimpse into Rembrandt’s life when he first moved to Amsterdam.

The 17th century Dutch Golden Age exhibited a new approach to art. Independence from Spanish Catholic monarchical rule and the establishment of a Dutch Protestant Republic spurred a boost in global trade, a scientific revolution, and a burgeoning middle class. This political and religious freedom paved the way for a newly democratic period in art history. Instead of the extravagant portrayals of royalty, history, and religious subjects seen elsewhere in Europe, Dutch artists often depicted ordinary people, everyday life, and secular scenes that appealed to middle-class citizens and fueled a competitive art market.

“These paintings provide a window into the society that created them, one that is not unlike our own,” says Dr. Ronni Baer, the exhibition’s curator and former Senior Curator of European Paintings at the MFA in Boston. “The works are grouped thematically rather than chronologically or by artist, amplifying their meaning and allowing us to explore their stories. The abundance of detail and pure inventiveness evident in these paintings bring the viewer pleasure the longer one looks at them.”

In the Age of Rembrandt showcases the diversity, artistry, and technical skill of Rembrandt and his contemporaries across all painting categories for which the Netherlands is best known, including portraits, genre scenes, still lifes, landscapes, cityscapes, and architectural pictures. Rachel Ruysch, one of the few noted female artists of the period, became famous during her lifetime for her dynamic and detailed floral still lifes. Gerrit Dou’s meticulously fine painting technique contrasts with the loose brushwork that gave Frans Hals’s portraits a bold sense of liveliness. Jacob van Ruisdael is renowned for his sweeping landscapes that expertly capture light and shadow. Jan Steen’s humourous depictions of Dutch homes and taverns contain important clues that reveal the pictures’ multiple meanings. With his restrained palette, Pieter Saenredam specialized in carefully designed “portraits” of Dutch church interiors.

In the Age of Rembrandt complements, and will be displayed adjacent to, the ROM’s Samuel European Galleries, home to one of the largest European decorative arts collections in Canada. The collection includes over 56,000 objects, including ceramics, metal work, silver, prints and drawings, arms and armour, musical instruments, and furniture, ranging from the 14th to 20th centuries.

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