A riveting exploration of some of the finest works of Dutch art seen through the lens of global trade and colonization
April 19-July 14, 2024
ATLANTA, Nov. 28, 2023 — Next spring, the High Museum of Art will present “Dutch Art in a Global Age: Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston” from April 19 through July 14, 2024.
The exhibition brings together more than 100 paintings, prints, maps and decorative art objects spanning the 17th and first half of the 18th centuries by the period’s leading Dutch artists, including Rembrandt, Jacob van Ruisdael, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Willem Kalf and Rachel Ruysch. Representing the highest artistic achievement, these works are considered in the context of global exchange and colonialism. The display explores how Dutch preeminence in international maritime trade and the influx of new goods and information transformed life in the Netherlands and led to a remarkable cultural flowering. The art of this period reflects how the Dutch wished to represent themselves, their ideals and their concerns. Few artists addressed the human toll of colonialism head-on, but many paintings reveal the influence of international expansion on Dutch art and society. The exhibition addresses these complex histories through up-to-date scholarship, contextualizing 17th- and 18th-century Dutch art in a fresh, compelling way.
“This wonderful exhibition from the MFA opens a door for us to reflect upon a remarkably dynamic and complex history via quintessential artworks of that era and region,” said Rand Suffolk, director of the High. “We look forward to sharing that experience with our audiences.”
The presentation is organized into six sections that address not only the positive image the Dutch wished to project but also the dark side of their new prosperity. This includes urban poverty and the Netherlands’ role in the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism. These topics have rarely been addressed in important art exhibitions.
- “The World at Home” begins with still life paintings that demonstrate the outstanding technical prowess of Dutch artists. Juxtaposing still lifes with examples of Chinese porcelain, Dutch Delftware and intricate silver objects, this section foregrounds the foreign origins of new luxury products that shaped daily life.
- “The World Beyond” illustrates the establishment of trading posts and colonies in various foreign countries and investigates the exploitation at the heart of these enterprises. Images of the sea, foreign landscapes, harbors and ships evoke global trade networks dominated by the Dutch East India Company, the world’s first multinational corporation, founded in 1602, and the Dutch West India Company, established in 1621.
- “Amsterdam as a Cosmopolitan Hub” showcases the prosperity and explosive growth of the urban environment. Paintings and prints evince Amsterdam’s new position as a trading center through views of a new stock exchange, warehouses, shipyards, churches, newly constructed neighborhoods and the ambitious canal system that connected them all.
- “Global Citizens” reviews the evolving identity of the Dutch. Its society was one of the most diverse in Europe, encompassing immigrant groups of religious refugees, itinerant laborers and displaced minorities, including Amsterdam’s African Atlantic community of sailors, soldiers, craftspeople and servants. This section features superb painted portraits and a rich selection of Rembrandt etchings.
- “Celebrating the Familiar” reflects the renewed pride in the beauty of the Dutch homeland as a counterweight to global expansion. Artists such as Jan van Goyen, Jacob van Ruisdael, Philips Koninck and Hendrick Avercamp developed new styles of naturalistic landscapes that took inspiration from the distinctive local terrain, while others specialized in humble scenes of domestic animals.
- “Conspicuous Consumption” refers to the immense riches many Dutch individuals amassed and the resulting changes in consumer habits. Some paintings seem to endorse new products — including sugar, tobacco, coffee and tea — central to this ethos of cosmopolitan prosperity, while other images seem more critical.
“We are fortunate to be able to present this extraordinary collection of Dutch masterpieces from the 17th and 18th centuries; they are superlative works by the period’s greatest artists and designers,” said Claudia Einecke, the High’s France B. Bunzl Family curator of European art. “However, even more exciting is how their images and objects gain fresh interest and new significance in this exhibition by being seen through the lens of globalism and interpreted in terms of the economic, political and cultural realities that shaped art and society at the time.”
This exhibition was curated by Anna C. Knaap, assistant curator of paintings; Frederick Ilchman, Mrs. Russell W. Baker curator of paintings and chair of art of Europe; and colleagues at the MFA. Many of the included works are recent gifts or loans from Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo and Susan and Matthew Weatherbie, whose donations have elevated the MFA’s Dutch holdings to among the finest in the world. This exhibition is organized in partnership with the Center for Netherlandish Art (CNA) at the MFA. Christopher D. M. Atkins, the Van Otterloo-Weatherbie Director of the CNA, edited the innovative publication that accompanies the exhibition. Through an expansive library, a residency fellowship program and an active slate of public and academic programs, the CNA shares Dutch and Flemish art with wide audiences in Boston and beyond; stimulates multidisciplinary research and object-based learning; nurtures future generations of scholars and curators in the field; and expands public appreciation of Netherlandish art — especially works from the 17th century.
This exhibition will be on view in the Cousins Special Exhibition Galleries located on the Second Level in the Wieland Pavilion.
Exhibition Organization and Support
“Dutch Art in a Global Age: Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston” is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This exhibition is made possible by Premier Exhibition Series Sponsor Delta Air Lines, Inc.; Premier Exhibition Series Supporters ACT Foundation, Inc., William N. Banks, Jr., Mr. Joseph H. Boland, Jr., Cousins Foundation, Burton M. Gold, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, Harry Norman Realtors, and wish Foundation; Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporters Robin and Hilton Howell; Ambassador Exhibition Series Supporters Mrs. Fay S. Howell/The Howell Fund, Karen and Jeb Hughes/Corporate Environments, Loomis Charitable Foundation, The Fred and Rita Richman Fund, Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot, Mrs. Harriet H. Warren, and Elizabeth and Chris Willett; Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters Farideh and Al Azadi, Sandra and Dan Baldwin, Mr. and Mrs. Robin E. Delmer, Peggy Foreman, Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones, Joel Knox and Joan Marmo, Margot and Danny McCaul, Wade A. Rakes II and Nicholas Miller, and USI Insurance Services. Generous support is also provided by Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, and RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund.
About the High Museum of Art
Located in the heart of Atlanta, the High Museum of Art connects with audiences from across the Southeast and around the world through its distinguished collection, dynamic schedule of special exhibitions and engaging community-focused programs. Housed within facilities designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Richard Meier and Renzo Piano, the High features a collection of more than 19,000 works of art, including an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American fine and decorative arts; major holdings of photography and folk and self-taught work, especially that of artists from the American South; burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, including paintings, sculpture, new media and design; a growing collection of African art, with work dating from prehistory through the present; and significant holdings of European paintings and works on paper. The High is dedicated to reflecting the diversity of its communities and offering a variety of exhibitions and educational programs that engage visitors with the world of art, the lives of artists and the creative process. For more information about the High, visit www.high.org.
About the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), brings many worlds together through art. For nearly 50 years, the Museum has shared its deep collections and curatorial expertise with audiences around the world through traveling exhibitions. Showcasing masterpieces from ancient to modern, its renowned collection of nearly 500,000 works tells a multifaceted story of the human experience — a story that holds unique meaning for everyone. From Boston locals to international travelers, visitors from across the globe come to experience the MFA. Through both art and audience, the Museum brings together diverse perspectives — revealing connections, exploring differences, creating a community where all belong. Plan your visit at mfa.org.
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Marci Tate Davis
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