Taking a stroll in 17th-c. Netherlands

March 3rd, 2009

Writer, art historian and friend of the Flying Fox, Jonathan Lopez, wrote in recently…


Dear Jonathan,

Flying Fox readers might like to know that they can be transported back to 17th-century Holland by visiting a terrific show of Dutch cityscapes now up at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. It contains wonderful town views of Amsterdam, Haarlem, Delft, Dordrecht, The Hague—all of the major Dutch cities—created just as the Netherlands was entering its golden age of prosperity after gaining independence from Spain.

Vermeer aficionados should be aware that the View of Delft, which was included in the version of this show at the Mauritshuis, is unfortunately not in Washington, as the picture is too delicate to travel. But there’s plenty of Delft to see in works by De Hooch, Steen, Vroom, and others. There’s even an amazing Vosmaer showing the explosion of the Delft powder magazine that claimed the life of Vermeer’s presumed teacher Carel Fabritius. (There’s also a very good Fabritius view of Delft in the show too.)

If anybody is interested in learning more, I have a full review of the exhibition in the current issue of Apollo  http://www.apollo-magazine.com/reviews/3393276/pride-of-place.thtml but I really can’t recommend this show highly enough. It’s visually stunning and definitely worth a visit to Washington. It remains on view until the third of May.

All best,
Jonathan Lopez

One Response to “Taking a stroll in 17th-c. Netherlands”

  1. ARech

    I have visited this truly outstanding exhibition in November 2008 in the Mauritshuis, and I was immediately impressed first by the special atmosphere of earnest concentration and study, quite different to, say, the recent ‘Dutch Portrait’s show where visitors admired the costly robes or expressed their feelings about the various figures and their appearance.

    On the other hand the compositional variety of cityscapes is truly amazing. Others than expected from a usual cityscape many of them are full of life (even the Amsterdam-views) and labour, too. It is indeed rare in Dutch painting to watch craftsmen working on the construction of new ramparts like in Gerrit Berckheyde’s Haarlem-view. A very interesting insight into techniques in the Golden Age.

    One particular painting, which leaves a deep, persisting impression, is Abraham de Verwer’s ‘View of Hoorn’, entirely painted in various reddish tints and unfolding a nearly endless horizon.

    For those who were or are not able to visit this unique exhibition, just explore some of its highlights here (with extensive facilities, like zoom-in, location of the painter’s view point on a period map, photographs of the view today and audio-explanations, also in English).


    There is also a blog (the first of the Mauritshuis-website) to the exhibition, even with English translation when originally written in Dutch.

    Only one drawback with Jonathan Lopez’ very informative and animating report in ‘Apollo’: one has to get registered to ‘Apollo’ to be able to read the entire article. And although they offer a choice whether or not to receive email-communication you will get mails quite frequently, so I cancelled my earlier registration recently.


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