Wednesday, 11 July 2012

17th Century Dutch Painting - Part 3: National Gallery, London

5th July 2012

This is my third post on 17th Century Dutch Paintings- The Golden Age. The first described the pictures, artists (variable spelling of names) historical background and their suitability for some visually impaired people.  As there are many fine collections, it also introduced the newly refurbished galleries at the Wallace Collection and the National Gallery collection in person and online trails.  ( )

My second piece centred on the Torrie Collection in the Talbot Rice Gallery of the University of Edinburgh. ( )

I had missed the National Gallery ‘Art through Words’ in June and wanted to pay a visit before the Olympics made some trips difficult.  On arrival, I enquired at the information desk in the Sainsbury Wing and Nicola asked if I could use Braille or large print (I can’t) and then took me to the galleries where the 17th Century Dutch Paintings are. 

The National Gallery has a large collection of Dutch paintings, and as there is no “double hanging” the collection extends through several rooms.  Also, as there are small pictures and quite large ones, an individual artist’s work – such as Cuyp, Jan Steen or even Vermeer – is not exhibited all together in one room. 

Nicola suggested that she wrote down the NG number of a painting that I liked and that that reference would allow me to track the details.  Nicola also kept a separate note of the numbers saying that the information desk could print out the panel notes in large format or that, in my case, they could be sent in a text file by email.  (These notes were sent within 2 working days.)

Using a search engine and typing National Gallery NG Number the first result takes you normally into the picture with its dates and information.

Gerard ter Borch
Portrait of a young man

For example I typed National Gallery NG1399 and the full length portrait of a sombre clothed man in almost black diamond shape appears. This proves that with some help in noting the NG number and then getting someone to type it up, it is possible to use this information to undertake a search yourself.  Searching without this number will depend on your searching history and getting the artist’s name right.

The following are some of the paintings that I was particularly struck by during my visit:

Room 21 text panel

Figures in an Italian Garden with Fountains and Statuary

Frederik de Moucheron

The notes suggest that Adriaen van de Velde painted the figures in this imagined Italian landscape.  I had been discussing the van de Veldes with Nicola and mentioned that two of this talented family who worked in London were buried in the churchyard of St James Piccadilly (I had just eaten a sandwich and had a coffee there.)

River landscape with Horseman and Peasants

Albert Cuyp

The large painting of the peasants with cows has a lot of stories within it and Nicola was able to help me find one: a hunter crouching in the bottom left hand corner; I could make out a line of a gun as he was taking aim, but I could not make out his dog.  This is a beautiful painting, though has a cordon around it. 


Avenue of Middelharnis

Meindert Hobbema

This avenue of trees is a popular theme in Dutch paintings and this one is no exception.  Sometimes the Italianate influence can make some perspective lines appear odd and though I like this, I still think that the Cuyp avenue in Dordrecht has more appeal. 

A Dutch Yacht and Other Vessels Becalmed near the Shore

Hendrick Dubbels

This picture caught my eye with the ships or boats in full sail but becalmed.  The masts and the pattern of the sails appealed to my peripheral vision so I asked Nicola to make a note of the number.  The search took me into a NG inventory page with a lot of information and I had to go back to another level to check all the details.  A warning: doing too many searches on some paintings makes a prediction search seek some other items.

Haarlem Lock

Meindert Hobbema

This shows a typical canal lock with a herring packer’s tower, though according to the National Gallery site the buildings are no longer extant.  Apparently this is the only scene of Amsterdam by the artist who lived in the area.  Key facts on the site give more links to details of the painting. 

A River Scene with a Large Ferry and Numerous Dutch Vessels at Anchor

Jan van de Cappelle

A seascape with a ferry boat and other boats with Dutch flags, this was another picture that caught my eye.

Dutch Vessels Inshore and Men Bathing

Willem van de Velde

Landscape in Brazil
Frans Post

This was a surprise as one forgets the enormous trading post network the Dutch, with their fleet, had established around the world. 

View of the Westerkerk, Amsterdam

Jan van der Heyden

I had noted Jan van der Heyden in the Wallace Collection and I “recognised” the Westerkerk in Amsterdam.  Nicola commented on the detailed drawing of the cobblestones and this was similar to the brickwork detail that Jackie had described to me when looking at other pictures by van der Heyden.

Albert Cuyp

The Small Dort, NG962
The Maas at Dordrecht in a Storm, NG6405
The Large Dort, NG961

At this point I was beginning to show symptoms of a Cuyp overdose and it was delightful.  There are a lot of views of Dordrecht.   


The National Gallery is planning a ‘Vermeer and Musical Instrument’ exhibition for next year and it will include the Lady with Guitar.  I was mentioning this news which I had picked up on Twitter, when Nicola said “We have the lady here on show now.”  Kenwood is being refurbished and though a Rembrandt from Kenwood has gone on tour, the Iveagh Bequest restricts the Lady with the Guitar from ‘travelling’.  The picture is one of my favourites and though I missed the exhibition at the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge, I was able to view the other Vermeers such as Lady seated at a Virginal (NG2568) and Lady standing by a Virginal (NG1383).

Cattle and Sheep in a Stormy Landscape

Paulus Potter

One of my friends prefers Paulus Potter to Albert Cuyp.  My thoughts on this cattle and sheep in a storm was that the bovine beast resembled more another species, as I thought one had the appearance of a Highland Stag. 

A Farm with a Dead Tree

Adriaen van de Velde

I was attracted by the dead tree against the skyline.  Adriaen was famous for drawing figures and anatomical bits of pictures and his work is noted in many pictures with a leading name doing the landscape.

We went through some beautiful Albert Cuyp pictures.  I had been given a book on the NG collection and had bought the Albert Cuyp Catalogue following an exhibition in London and USA.  Whenever I mention Albert Cuyp to friends who are interested in Dutch pictures, they almost always say “Ah Cuyp, the cow man!”  While it is true that Cuyp painted cows he did cover other subjects.    

On our way back to the Sainsbury Wing Nicola mentioned that the Titian exhibition was starting on July 11 and it might be an idea to get there sooner than later.  This is free and downstairs.

Many thanks to Nicola for taking me round the collection.  With her help I was also able to remember many more pictures by using the NG number.  Talks and tours on Dutch pictures are also tweeted on the NG twitter feeds and texts can be downloaded using this method. 

I have found the National Gallery website to be straightforward in its own right by just searching through a search engine.  Knowing a few names, it is possible to locate a given painting.  I was also able to catch up on paintings which I would normally have picked up in an Art through Words session. I also have the picture labels (panel notes) which Nicola sent me by email. 

An example of the picture label for the Albert Cuyp reads very well in a screenreader and the National Gallery separated the labels with an underline.  This makes it easier for me to merge it like this:

Albert Cuyp (1620–1691)

River Landscape with Horseman
and Peasants, about 1658–60

This is Aelbert Cuyp’s largest surviving
landscape. The scene is inspired by
the landscape along the Rhine near
Nijmegen, in the eastern Netherlands.
Cuyp travelled to the area many times.

The golden sunlight is observed from
the work of contemporaries, such as
Jan Both, who had travelled in Italy.

Oil on canvas
NG6522. Bought with the assistance of the
National Heritage Memorial Fund and
The Art Fund, 1989

These provide a neat description of the work and it is now possible for me to form my own gallery notes and tag it to the right painting.  (This is a challenge but makes one work to fix an image in the mind) It would be possible to read a bar code and listen to a synthetic voice read it out, but where is the interaction in that? 

This shows that a few paintings one enjoys can be enjoyed later on with a record of the visit, thoughts at the time and some cross checking from the gallery.  Another really good and imaginative way in sharing the pictures to the visually impaired community. 

Books recently acquired on 17th century Dutch pictures:

Rembrandt 1892 by John Ingamells (The Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London)
Jan Steen (1626-1679) by Wouter Kloek (Waanders Publishers, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
Dutch Painting: The National Gallery (National Gallery, London)

Metamorphosis: Titian 2012
A unique collaboration with The Royal Ballet
11 July - 23 September 2012
Admission Free
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