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"Rubens, Jordaens, Van Dyck, and their Circle: Flemish Master Drawings from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen"
2002-09-13 until 2002-11-10
Appleton Museum of Art
Ocala, FL, USA United States of America

Possessing one of the finest collection of old master drawings in the world, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam has a particularly rich selection of drawings by Flemish seventeenth-century masters. The exhibition, selected by A. W. F. M. Meij, includes on hundred of the museum’s finest sheets. Focusing on Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), and Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) – the three most significant artists of the Netherlands – with a final section devoted to the group of talented artists who worked in the shadow of Rubens, the exhibition will include examples of preparatory drawings for paintings and prints, copies of earlier works of art, and studies after nature. The selection will provide a fascinating view of the variety of functions for which artists used drawings.

Twenty-nine remarkable drawings by Rubens will make up the opening section of the exhibition. These sheets range over the full course of the artist’s long and distinguished career and include, most, if not all, of the many aspects of Ruben’s draftsmanship: figure studies in black chalk; portraits in colored chalks; energetic pen studies; finished modelli in pen, wash, and white heightening; and the well-known copies he made of drawings in his own collection, as well as some of the drawings he reworked. Rubens traveled to Italy in 1600, visiting Venice, Rome, and a number of other cities and studying the works of classical antiquity and of Renaissance masters such as Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian. He also took note of the works of celebrated contemporaries like Caravaggio. Upon his return to Antwerp in 1608, Rubens became one of the most sought after painters in Europe. One of the most important drawings in the exhibition, if not in Ruben’s oeuvre as a whole, is Kneeling Man Seen From Behind, which was made (partly after a classical sculpture) in preparation for a large painting in the Statankamer of the City Hall in Antwerp. The figure of the kneeling man appears often in his work and is also found in drawings by Van Dyck and Jordaens. Among the most enowned and impressive drawings in the exhibition are the large portrait of Ruben’s second wife, Helene Fourment, who would become his favorite model during the last decade of his life; a magnificent red chalk study of Three Women Holding Garlands; and a late esquisse dating from 1638-39 for a large painting of the Martyrdom of St. Andrew produced for the Flemish Hospital in Madrid.

Of Ruben’s many students, Van Dyck was his favorite and most successful. The two artists collaborated on a number of projects including the ceiling decorations of the newly built Jesuit church in Antwerp. A comparison between Ruben’s Kneeling Man Seen from the Back and Van Dyck’s Seated Man Leaning Backwards makes apparent the influence of the older master on the young artist. In 1621 Van Dyck traveled to Italy, but rather than focus on antiquities the young artist studied the work of Titian, whose influence remained visible throughout the course of Van Dyck’s life. With the exception of a beautiful pen drawing of the English village of Rye, the nineteen drawings by Van Dyck included in the exhibition date from his two Antwerp periods, from around 1618 to 1621 and from 1628 to 1632. After leaving Antwerp in 1632, Van Dyck would create a distinguished career for himself as a portrait painter for the English court and aristocracy.

After the death of Rubens and Van Dyck, Jordaens, who had trained in Van Dyck’s studio, became the leading painter in Antwerp. In contrast to his predecessor, Jordaens neither traveled abroad nor had an international clientele. His oeuvre, represented here by twenty exceptional drawings, encompasses biblical, mythological, and allegorical subjects, as well as subjects derived from Flemish folklore. Continuing an old tradition that had reached a high point with Pieter Bruegel, Jordaens sometimes turned to proverbs like “The King Drinks” and “As the Old sing, twitter the Young” as subjects for his work. Jordaen’s characteristic figure renderings in red, black, and white chalks are represented by his Bagpiper, a study for The King Drinks, which is also included in the show.

The final section of the exhibition will present drawings by other Flemish artists, who, while less renowned than the three great masters, excelled in the various genres in which they specialized, producing works that were extremely influential. Drawings by artist such as Adriaen van Stalbempt (1580-1662) and Jan Wildens (1586-1653) show the stylistic range that emerged from the linear tradition that had been established in drawings and prints by artists like Breughel, to the more painterly work, rich in washed, of Pieter Bout and Gillis Neyts, whose paintings Rubens often studied. Frans Snijerds (1579-1657) primarily painted still lifes with small animals, fruit baskets, and kitchenware, and was frequently asked by Rubens to paint still-life details into his canvases. He is represented in the exhibition by four of his drawings: a still-life and three animal studies.

Accompanying the exhibition will be a fully illustrated catalogue including an introductory essay by the guest curator on the history of the study of Flemish drawings in Holland in general, and at the Boijmans Museum in particular, as well as essays by noted scholars of Flemish art. Hans Vlieghe will explore Flemish art of the first half of the 17th century; Roger Baetens will discuss the decline of Antwerp’s prosperity; the cultural relations between Antwerp and Venice will be examined by Bert Meijer; Flemish drawing in the 17th century will be investigated by Carl Depauw; and Ger Luijten will consider print production in the ateliers of painters in Antwerp. Additionally, the gues curator and Maartje de Haan will write entries on each work in the exhibition.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

IMAGE:
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Brisies is Given Back to Achilles


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