Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in the Met

The exhibition should be re-titled The Age of Acquisitions. Arranged according to how and when the Met acquired these paintings, the exhibition is less about the painters than about the Met and its curators and donors. Which is a huge disappointment to anyone who wants to learn more about the painters and the paintings.

The Rembrandt self-portraits excited me much less than before. This time round I was struck by how sensitive the Dutch were in painting portraits of old women. I also liked very much a wonderful still life by Willem Kalf (1619-1693), a painter I discovered for the first time here. It makes me think of the Dutch/Flemish tradition from which Matisse's still life paintings sprang.


Still Life with Fruit, Glassware, and a Wan-li Bowl, 1659


The composition of Wheat Fields, by Ruisdael, is magnificent. The road, grandly rutted, reminds me of the river in Turner's Dieppe Harbour, in the Frick. Both have the same intensely mixed colors, though one is of land, and the other is of water.


Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29–1682) Wheat Fields, ca. 1670




J. M. W. Turner, The Harbor of Dieppe, 1826?

I visited the Frick again today. This time I was captivated by Goya's The Forge (c. 1815-1820), and Hogarth's Miss Mary Edwards (1742).



The painting divides into three triangles: red, green and brown. The red and green planes are enriched and softened by the fabrics, one a dress, the other a curtain, both lassoed by ropes or a chain. The brown plane is actually the curved wall of a round room, the curve wittily echoed by the globe, and by her right breast positioned at the center of the painting.

Goya's The Forge is a swirl of energy enacted by the three smithies at different heights. The masculature of the working class figures are given the treatment usually reserved for gods, heroes and aristocrats in Renaissance paintings.

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