Three Dutch exhibitions in Paris
1. En route ! or At Home and Abroad, Dutch Landscape Drawings
The Custodia Foundation, which is a haven of quiet with plenty of activity in the center of Paris, is staging an exhibition of the impressive collection of old master drawings owned by John Fentener van Vlissingen and his wife Marine, Comtesse de Pourtalès. This exhibition, which ran previously at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, features 100 drawings with ‘traveling’ as the theme – from sheets by seventeenth-century artists such as Rembrandt and Jacob van Ruisdael to nineteenth-century works by the generation that included Josephus August Knip.
Over a period of fifty years John and Marine van Vlissingen have meticulously compiled a collection of landscape drawings by Dutch and Flemish artists who depicted nature, not only in the Netherlands but also in France, Italy, England and Africa as they traveled widely. Drawings at the time were not simply preparations for paintings they were a way to preserve a memory or transmit an emotion much like photography is today. Standing in front of these delicate pieces we cannot but appreciate the simple lines that form the elegance of ship, tree or animal. It is a treat for those who love to draw to be able to so closely approach these masters (and copying is allowed!)
Dutch artists have always been known as enthusiastic travelers. During the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they visited the world on horseback, by stagecoach, by barge and on foot. In their drawings they captured the great diversity of landscapes they passed through. For the artists who did not have the opportunity, the courage or the wherewithal to undertake such trips, the work of those artists who did travel was extremely valuable. During this time the landscape was becoming a subject in its own right as opposed to being a simple background for biblical and mythological scenes, but as a subject in its own right.
Rembrandt (1606-1669) was one painter who probably never left the Netherlands, but he often drew nature. The sheet in the Custodia Foundation exhibition, “Rampart near the Anthony’s Gate, Amsterdam”, is one of a splendid series of landscapes he made between 1648 and 1652. As in many works from the same period, Rembrandt depicted the landscape in a flawlessly simple manner, using only a reed pen, brown ink and a brown wash, a technique that lends the work rare clarity and extraordinary balance.
This drawing hangs in the same room as “View of the Hogesluis beside the Amstel, Amsterdam” by Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29-1682). It is a magnificent example of the artist’s refined style. With the low horizon and clouds, the drawing makes a powerful impression.
Hermanus Numan (1744-1820) was one of the leading Dutch watercolorists of the eighteenth century. He painted many country estates and parks, and in the 1780s made this subject his specialty. The two watercolors in the exhibition – of an orangery in a park with a pond – are very sophisticated examples of his talent.
Be sure to ask for the precious booklet in a choice of three languages at the entrance to the expo. The booklet enhances the exhibition with short paragraphs of historical context, often describing the subject as well as events in the painter’s life related to each of the drawings. Much more information that what is posted on the card on the wall.
2. Capturer la lumière
Works on paper by Jozef Van Ruyssevelt (1941-1985)
Running concurrently with the En route ! exhibition is a show of works on paper by the Flemish painter and etcher
Jozef Van Ruyssevelt.
In contrast to the En route ! exhibition’s images of travel Jozef Van Ruyssevelt’s (1941-1985) subject was his immediate surroundings. He was an Intimist, who wanted to capture light, colour and space and found his subjects in his own house and garden. In particular he pictured the rooms of his last house in Stationsstraat in Essen, near Antwerp, again and again.
The exhibition focuses on Van Ruyssevelt’s etchings but also includes gouache and pastels. Often dramatic prints of undramatic subjects, they include interiors with chairs and cupboards, still lifes with bottles and potted plants. Van Ruyssevelt’s graphic art is all suggestion. A still life or an interior is visible in general terms, but the details remain undefined. As densely as he hatched it, he still left everything open capturing the light. The darkest backgrounds offer contrast for the delicate leaves, vase and chairs of Van Ruyssevelt’s world.
Both exhibitions at the Custodia Foundation (in their beautiful Hôtel particulier at 121 rue de Lille 75007 Paris) are open until April 30th every day 2 to 6pm, except Monday.
3. VISAGES / portraits européens
Another Dutch exhibition going on this month is a series of European portraits. As The Netherlands presides the European Union for the first half of 2016 they have decided to offer this presentation of portraits as a gift to the French people. Until 15 April you can enjoy VISAGES / portraits européens on the banks of the Seine near the Solférino footbridge. The exhibition is pan-European in both the choice of photographers and subjects showing the evolution of the European portrait photograph throughout the last decades. The tendency has been to place the individual and his socio-cultural identity in the center of the artist’s work, echoing the rapid changes which have shaken European identity since 1990 : globalization, migration, internet, economic unification. The exhibition displays the power, wealth and diversity of modern European portrait photography and questions the notions of identity, culture history and the relation between the photographer, the spectator and the model. Fashion photographer Juergen Teller made portraits of aspiring models, Nikos Markou presents documentary style images of the economic situation in Greece. Belgian photographer Stephan Vanfleteren chose to present Flemish fishermen in their personal context. Beat Streuli photographed the everyman in the street. There are also portrait of famous European and by famous photographers as Denis Darzacq, Christian Courrèges and Anton Corbijn. A real portrait of the Europe we live in.