Indepth Arts News: |
"Vermeer and the Delft School"
2001-06-20 until 2001-09-16
UK United Kingdom
Painting from the Dutch town of Delft is generally most readily associated
with the genius of Johannes Vermeer. However, by the time Vermeer emerged
as a painter in the 1650s Delft was already an established artistic centre
and until the 1670s the town sustained a significant community of artists.
It is one of the aims of this exhibition to present Vermeer's work within
the broader artistic context of his immediate environment.
One of the most talented painters active in Delft around 1650 was Carel
Fabritius. He was born in 1622 and worked in Rembrandt's studio in
Amsterdam from 1641 to 1643 when he returned to his native
Midden-Beemster. He settled in Delft around 1650. Unfortunately his life
was tragically cut short by the great gunpowder explosion that devastated
a large part of the town in 1654. As a result, we know of only nine works
by his hand. Besides his self portrait from Rotterdam (Museum Boijmans Van
Beuningen) that slightly predates his Delft period, the exhibition
includes the four works Fabritius executed in Delft: his 'View of Delft,
with a Musical Instrument Seller's Stall' of 1652 (National Gallery,
London), from 1654 his famous 'Goldfinch' (Mauritshuis, The Hague), his
second self portrait (National Gallery, London) and his rarely seen 'The
Sentry from Schwerin' (Staatliches Museum).
'The Sentry' shows a sloppily dressed guardsman seated hunched over a gun
in his lap. He is either dozing in the warm sunlight or idly tinkering
with his weapon. His slovenly appearance contrasts with both the attentive
dog in front of him and the relief above the gateway which depicts Saint
Anthony Abbot who was seen as a model of diligence and self-discipline.
Dutch towns were usually guarded night and day, so the sentry may be
enjoying a rest after a long vigil. However, guardsmen were often said to
be negligent of their duties and untrustworthy. Thus, maybe the picture is
a bemused commentary on human shortcomings and the general low opinion of
municipal soldiers. This masterpiece reveals Fabritius's great talent as a
painter. In place of precise drawing and complicated perspectival
constructions he uses carefully balanced light, shadow contrasts and
subtle tonal values to evoke the atmosphere and to define the space and
details within it.
'The Art of Painting', about 1666-8.
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum.