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Tag Archives: genre painting

Object of the Month: November 2020

The Arrival at Emmaus

Oil on panel

Aert van der Neer

Dutch, c. 1604– d. 1677

Irony in life exists in the world of art as well as in other spheres. There are well-known artists that have died poor or their works were lightly esteemed. Such is the painter of M&G’s The Arrival at Emmaus, Aert van der Neer. He is one of many Dutch landscape artists of the seventeenth century. Born in Gorinchem in the northeastern part of the country and residing mainly in Amsterdam, he is part of the Dutch Golden Age. He was a steward in the early part of his adult life then became more involved in painting in his late thirties or early forties. His wife, Lisabeth, was the sister of artist, Rafael Govertsz Camphuysen (also represented in M&G’s collection).

Rafael Govertsz Camphuysen, Elijah Fed by the Ravens, M&G Collection

While Aert died in poverty, one of his sons, Eglon excelled as an artist and ultimately settled in Dusseldorf as a court painter.

The style of van der Neer and his friendship with painter Aelbert Cuyp led them to work together on a number of paintings. Aert often painted the basic composition, and Aelbert would add the finer details. Works exist with the initials of both artists inscribed on them. However, M&G’s painting is signed only by Aert van der Neer as Neer. (include image: signature detail)

For the whole of his life, Aert never varied his painting style as seen in his many moon-lit landscapes and peopled scenes depicting a centrally placed river. Regardless of some of his repetitive compositional choices, he illustrated favorite parts of his country in an unmistakable way. His landscape style was so frequently imitated during and after his life that author Christopher Wright explains, “Thus—although this is not often realized—van der Neer can be said to have been one of the most influential Dutch painters.”

The Arrival at Emmaus joined M&G’s collection in 1974. It is one of the few scriptural subjects depicted by the artist. Luke 24:13-35 tells the narrative of Christ joining two, heavy-hearted disciples en route to Emmaus from Jerusalem. Christ asked about their conversation, and not recognizing Him, the two shared the tragic account of Christ’s crucifixion and their belief that His missing body could not be located. Little did they know as Christ explained the Old Testament messianic scriptures on their journey, that He was there with them.  When they arrived in Emmaus after a nearly seven-mile journey, the two men graciously urged Him to “abide with” them. Christ took the position of host at their supper table and blessed and broke the bread. At that moment, He opened their eyes (v. 31) to understand Who He was—their risen Messiah. Then, with uncontained joy and full comprehension of why their hearts “burned within” as He had spoken the scriptures on the road, they immediately left Emmaus and returned to Jerusalem! There they exclaimed to the disciples that “the Lord is risen indeed” (v. 34).

Visible in this painting is the representation of Emmaus as a Dutch town. A seventeenth-century cathedral is prominent in the background as daylight is receding and the ducks begin nesting down for the night. The two disciples are seen inviting Christ to be their guest, a guest who would vanish from their sight and leave them with a greater realization of who He is.  As the season of Advent approaches, may we too recognize who Christ truly is.

John Good, M&G Security Manager

 

Additional Resource:

The Dutch Painters, 100 Seventeenth Century Masters

 

Published in 2020

Object of the Month: March 2018

The Instruments of the Passion of Christ

Oil on panel

Unknown Dutch

Dutch, 17th century

Genre painting could best be described as a painting that depicts everyday life without idealization.  There are many subject matter that fall under the category of genre painting including interior, landscape, and still life.  But what sets genre painting apart from other categories is the narratives or moral tales hidden in plain sight.

It is during the seventeenth century in the Netherlands, known as the Dutch Golden Age, that Dutch painting, sciences, military, and trade flourished.  Genre paintings were a favorite of every class, which reveals both the increasing urbanization of society and the people’s intense love of their national culture and way of living. Still life genre paintings use symbolism to portray common themes such as vanity, the passing of time, the brevity of life, or specific character qualities (vice or virtue).  From the fourteenth century to today, still life paintings use flora, fauna, household items and personal possessions to symbolize ideas, which add depth and meaning to the narrative.

Throughout the Museum & Gallery’s collection, there is only one painting that falls within the category of a still life genre painting.  Painted by an unknown seventeenth-century artist, The Instruments of the Passion is filled to the frame with symbolism.

Instead of painting the entire narrative as recorded in the Gospels, the artist depicts objects as a symbolic and literal reminder of Christ’s sacrifice. Each individual element, painted in great detail, references a part of the greater story. The objects included are: a hammer,
nails, dice, pliers, spear, sponge, lantern, halberd (a sixteenth-century spear-like weapon), brass pan, broken reed, wine flasks, crown of thorns, scarlet robe, purse with 30 silver pieces, and an inscribed parchment (translated “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”).

While this painting may not be one of the biggest or the prettiest in the Collection, the grouping of these objects provides a powerful representation of Christ’s suffering through the simplicity of symbolism.

KC Beach, former M&G staff member

 

Published in 2018

Object of the Month: November 2017

Christ on the Sea of Galilee

Oil on canvas

Unknown French

France, active 17th century

Click on links for additional reference information.
This dynamic seascape by a seventeenth-century French painter bears a striking similarity to a work done by a renowned Dutch master of the same period, Rembrandt van Rijn. Until the modern concepts of copyright and intellectual property, most artists of the past eagerly learned from the creative ideas and innovative troubleshooting of both those before them and their contemporaries. Part of an artist’s training involved painting copies of famous works of art or that of their master (the teacher they were apprenticed to or worked under).  The diagonal composition, dramatic lighting, textures, and even to some degree, the figures in this M&G work are clearly reminiscent of Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee (below).

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) was born in the Netherlands, “a land of winds and water.” Located on the North Sea, twenty-five percent of the land is at or below sea level with the highest point (Vaalserberg) only 1053 feet above. Over the centuries, this geography has shaped both the nation’s history and the temperament of its people. For example, during the seventeenth century raging sea storms and lowland flooding often threatened life and livelihood, but Dutch ingenuity and resilience turned these formidable obstacles into valuable resources.  (For more detailed exploration download the National Gallery of Art’s informative resource Painting in the Dutch Golden Age.)

In light of Rembrandt’s birthplace, it’s interesting that he painted only one seascape. Regardless, the dynamic composition and nuanced atmospheric beauty of his Storm on the Sea of Galilee reflects an intimate knowledge of storm-tossed seas. Rembrandt was only 27 when he painted this work, and art historians have speculated that the choice of subject indicates a youthful preference for action-packed scenes. Whatever his motivation, the scene clearly adumbrates the dramatic chiaroscuro and nuanced visual texture that would become a hallmark of his work.

Sadly, we are limited to experiencing the work through reproductions.  On the night of March 18, 1990, two thieves dressed as police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, bound the museum’s security guards, and made off with thirteen of the gallery’s prized masterworks, including Rembrandt’s famous seascape. 

Artists today are still honing their skills by studying and copying such masterworks. As contemporary artist Lisa Marder acknowledges, it is “one of the tried and true techniques of classical art training.”

Donnalynn Hess, Director of Education

 

 

Published in 2017