At the request of the New York magazine ArtNews, of which in the 1970s I was Netherlands correspondent, I visited the Prado Museum in Madrid to report on the new climate control facilities being installed. The article appeared in the March 1980 issue, contributing to the award to ArtNews of the George Polk Award for Cultural Journalism. I am pleased to report that in the intervening decades the Prado has more than redeemed itself from the dire situation in which I encountered it.
The summer exhibitions in the Rijksmuseum present two extremes of three-dimensional form. The somewhat brutalist geometric steel sculptures of Eduardo Chillida in the garden, and in the exhibition galleries the height of finesse, precious gold and silver objects that flirt with formlessness. Schwartz finds a common denominator.
Mutual relations among Rembrandt specialists are not always as cordial as they might be. It takes understanding and diplomacy to stay on good terms with everyone in the field. In that I have not been universally successful. One colleague with whom I have always got on well, differences not aside but included, is Christopher Brown. This is more to his credit than to mine. But I admire him for much more than that. Continue reading “362 Work for a grown man”
Some of the best realist painters of the twentieth century were Dutch. If few art lovers outside the Netherlands have heard of them, this is because the Netherlands has proven unable to launch major reputations for artists who stayed at home and did not work in international groups like De Stijl or Cobra. Schwartz delves into the issue, and is held up midway by the tragic choices of the best of the Dutch realists, Pyke Koch.
Continue reading “361 Between the wars”
The Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam has opened one of the most remarkable exhibitions you are ever likely to see, Charlotte Salomon. Life? or Theatre? It runs for a generous five months from 20 October 2017 to 25 March 2018. The occasion is the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth in 1917. In 1943 she was murdered in Auschwitz.
If they didn’t live three centuries apart and if he were a human being instead of a fictional character, you could easily confuse Gulley Jimson with Emanuel de Witte. Both were gifted painters who insulted, bullied and stole from their patrons and were always ready for fights they couldn’t win.
Listening to lectures is one of the poorest methods known for acquiring knowledge. There are exceptions – Schwartz thinks he took away new insights from recent lectures on the Netherlands in the seventeenth century (Spinoza); Germany in the sixteenth (Luther); and literature in the twenty-first (Nicole Krauss).
Continue reading “356 Listening to lectures”
The print room of the Rijksmuseum mounted magnificent exhibitions on two very different Dutch landscape artists, the portrayer of Brazil Frans Post and the traveler in his own imagination Hercules Segers. The juxtaposition brings Schwartz to compare them; he finds out that they both came to the same sorry end. Continue reading “349 The difference between Frans Post and Hercules Seghers”
The deal is done. The Louvre and Rijksmuseum have come into shared ownership of Rembrandt’s earliest full-length, life-size portraits. Buyers and sellers proclaim piously that they were driven by angst that these cultural treasures might disappear to Arabia or China. Schwartz tests that proposition and finds it wanting. Continue reading “344 Some Rothschild Rembrandts, seen and unseen”
During the first half of the seventeenth century, successive shahs of Persia took Dutch artists into their service. Other Dutch artists are recorded in Isfahan in other capacities. All but one – the most remarkable of them, Jan Lucasz. van Hasselt – came east with the Dutch East India Company, which had a distinctly uncomfortable feeling about having artists in its employ. All that we have left are documents and stories.
From exhib. cat. The fascination of Persia: The Persian-European dialogue in seventeenth-century art & contemporary art of Teheran, ed. Axel Langer, Zürich (Museum Rietberg) and Verlag Scheiddeger & Spiess 2013, pp. 153-167, 300-20
“Zwischen Hof und Handelsgesellschaft: Niederländische Künstler in Persien,” in Ausstellungskatalog Sehnsuch Persien: Austausch und Rezeption in der Kunst Persiens und Europas im 17. Jahrhundert * Gegenwartskunst aus Teheran, herausgegeben von Axel Langer, Zürich (Museum Rietberg) und Verlag Scheiddeger & Spiess 2013, S. 153-167
The illustrations are in low resolution.