386 Dutchness* in English art

In giving Schwartzlist 385 the title “The Dutchness of English art,” I succumbed to the irresistible temptation to take on Nikolaus Pevsner’s classic “The Englishness of English art” and Christopher Brown’s “The Dutchness of Dutch art.” A number of readers felt that I thereby cut corners. The present column is a remake, with an unassailably clearcut definition of its scope and a properly modest title.

My discussion of British Baroque in Schwartzlist 385 was too concise and stated too categorically. It left many qualified readers with the impression that it was intended to be comprehensive, which it wasn’t. On the one hand, the incidence of artists from the Low Countries working in Britain is far greater, began far earlier, lasted far longer, than the second half of the seventeenth century, and has a considerable body of literature devoted to it. On the other, Dutch and Flemish artists were not the only ones from abroad to leave an indelible mark on the English look. The most principled, and most circumstanial, objection to my piece came in a mail from Susan Koslow:

re British Baroque: the second half of the 17th century in England, soon to become Britain, was “Dutch” only insofar as William married Mary. Some pieces managed to pass through the hands of customs, but look at Verrio here and there and everywhere. Not Dutch in any sense of the word. Gibbons was homegrown and so forth. In anything, the Flemish had a greater influence. Actually, portraiture was the English thing. Hardwick Hall, New, is filled with portraits and was always intended to be. Only when Lord Burlington changed taste did Jacobean and Prodigy disappear somewhat – although castles abounded in reference to the antiquity of a family’s lordship. Look at the little castle at Bolsover. And interiors – vast walls of Verrio at Burghley, Blenhem, etc, Italian baroque here and there and everywhere. But Chiswick’s pictures – granted 18thc – were Italian, now largely removed, from the interior. The English in the 18th century had some of this and some of that, but Dutch it was not, except for a few cabinet pictures.

Britain was Classical and Gothic – the only lovely “Dutch” house is the Queen’s House at Kew. Travel the countryside and what do you see? Palladio and Gothic and of course some Van Brugh, such as the curious Castle Howard. Did you ever see Brideshead Revisited with the young Jeremy Irons? Castle Howard is Brideshead. Almost all of the interior was destroyed. And for the movie the walls are actually flats. One would never know that. Amazing tricks of cinema.

With none of what she says do I know enough to disagree. I am grateful to her for putting it down and am pleased to pass it on to you. However, it does not impinge on what I intended the column to convey. All I wished to show is how many of the artists in the short-lived Tate show British Baroque – a responsible curatorial and art-historical endeavor – were by Dutch and Flemish artists. By my count, the exhibition featured seven artists from France, two from Italy,  two from Sweden, two from Germany, one Hungarian and 21 from Britain, over and against 22 from the northern and five from the southern Netherlands, almost half of the artists represented. This justifies a more outspoken take on the matter than Susan Koslow will allow.

To make up for the false impression I created, I have put together a table of all the Dutch and Flemish artists in the exhibition (which is also not comprehensive), illustrated by one of the works by which they are represented, with thanks to Tate Britain for providing me with a pdf of the catalogue. When there is a good online image available, I supply only a link. This provides not only a picture but an entry.

Pieter van Bloemen The duke of Marlborough and the earl of Cadogan at Blenheim (copy after; UK Government Art Collection)
Jan Boskam Medal commemorating the Battle of La Hogue, 1692 (Royal Collection)
Balthasar van den Bossche Was co-author with Pieter van Bloemen of the lost Blenheim painting, represented in a copy
Edwaert Collier A trompe l’oeil of newspapers, letters and writing implements on a wooden board (Tate; see also 385)
Hendrik Danckerts Whitehall from St. James’s Park (UK Government Art Collection)
Jan Drapentier Medal commemorating the Peace of Ryswyk (British Museum)
Jan Griffier Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire (Private collection)
Romeyn de Hooghe Bird’s-eye view of Het Loo Palace (Rijksmuseum)
Samuel van Hoogstraten A peepshow with views of the interior of a Dutch house (National Gallery)
Jacob Huysmans Catherine of Braganza (Royal Collection; see also 385))
Edward Kick Duchess of Beaufort’s florilegium (still hers)
Leonard Knyff Bird’s-eye view of Whitehall Palace (City of Westminster Archives; see also 385))
Marcellus Laroon A lady at confession (British Museum)
Peter Lely Elizabeth Hamilton, countess of Gramont (Royal Collection)
Bernard Lens A representation of the Royal Fire-work (British Museum)
Dirk Maes The Battle of the Boyne (British Museum)
Arnold Quellin A putto holding the crown and coat of arms of Scotland (V&A)
Pieter Gerritsz van Roestraten A still life (Burghley House)
Jan Siberechts A view of Chatsworth (Chatsworth)
Gaspar Smitz Angel at the tomb and three Marys (Marquess of Salisbury)
Gilbert Soest Henry Howard, 6th duke of Norfolk (Tate)
Dirk Stoop Charles II’s cavalcade through the City of London, 22 April 1661 (Museum of London)
Jan van der Vaart Trompe l’oeil of a violin and bow hanging on a door (Chatsworth)
Simon Verelst A vase of flowers (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum; see also 385)
Johannes Vorsterman Greenwich and London from One Tree Hill (Greenwich, National Maritime Museum)
Willem Wissing The Hon. William Cecil (Burghley House)
Jan Wyck William III and his army at the siege of Namur (National Army Museum)

These are essential contributions all across the board, are they not? So extensive is the phenomenon that I actually forgot to mention in my last posting an article on a Dutch painter in London, not included in the exhibition, concerning whom I am one of the world authorities, J. van Beecq. There was more Dutchness in England than was brought in by the considerable entourage of William of Orange.

© Gary Schwartz 2020. Published on the Schwartzlist on 15 August 2020.

* Asterisk added on 17 August 2020, as reference to my response to Deb Markow’s comment, below.

Today is the 75th anniversary of the surrender of Japan in the Second World War, V-J Day. It is difficult to celebrate it, knowing what preceded it, not only in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but all the horrors following the attack on Pearl Harbor. In my own history a diversionary accident of fate intervenes. August 15th, 1945 is the day of my second earliest datable memory. In the summers of the mid-1940s, my parents rented a bungalow in Rockaway Beach. My father worked near our house in East New York, and he would take the A train there and back every day. I would wait for him at the Beach 60th or was it the 67th Street station and be buoyed up on his return. One memory that has stuck is of the ice box. At home on Highland Boulevard in East New York we had a refrigerator, but in Rockaway Beach there was a true ice box. The ice man would deliver big blocks of ice and put them into place. What impressed me most were the huge tongs with which he would take hold of the blocks and bring them into the house.

I have everyday memories of getting up early in the morning and climbing into the kitchen cabinet on the floor and playing with the pots and pans. I would sometimes go outside and crawl into a big sewer pipe that was lying outside our bungalow waiting to go into the ground. A photo from 2015 that I found on Google shows what our street would have looked like, even to the pipe. I doubt that my parents enjoyed these games as much as I did. However, my knowledge of kitchenware prepared me perfectly for VJ Day. With two pan covers I walked up and down the street clanging them together, to add to the ruckus going on.

­An earlier datable memory turns out to have double meaning. I remember sitting on my father’s shoulders and cheering Franklin Delano Roosevelt as he drove in a motorcade on the Interboro Parkway (since 1997 Jackie Robinson Parkway) near the Cypress Hills entrance. Looking this up on Google, I find that it took place on Saturday, 21 October 1944, when the president “made a 4-hour, 65-mile journey through the streets of four boroughs before an estimated crowd of 3 million onlookers, all in the pouring rain” (website of turnstile tours; see also the story on pp. 1 and 8 of the Brooklyn Eagle, to which we subscribed, along with the New York Post). Adding to the significance of the date is that it was the day before the birth of my sister Carol Sue in King’s County Hospital. As things were done in those days, I would have been parked with family for a week or so. In my childhood, that was always with my mother’s older sister Jean, the youngest of whose three sons Stanley was my age.

Later in life, VJ Day was replaced in my mind as the main association of 15 August by the Italian holiday ferragosto. I have enjoyed two ferragostos in Rome, in 1964, which I don’t remember, and with Loekie sometime in the 1960s or 1970s. With the torrid city to ourselves, we wandered in Trastevere and ended up alone in Santa Cecilia, one of the defining experiences of our European life.

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5 thoughts on “386 Dutchness* in English art”

  1. Dear Gary,

    Thank you for delving into this engaging topic with your typical fresh stance and concrete compilation of evidence.

    On a less solid note, let’s not forget the still open and (I trust) intriguing possibility that Rembrandt travelled to England in 1661/62, perhaps in search of patronage during the Restoration. The evidence comes from the early 18th c. diary of George Vertue, who claimed to have seen a portrait of a ship’s captain dated “1661/62,” indicating the first months of 1662 and acknowledging the discrepancy since the English still followed the old calendar. Vertue recounted a tale that Rembrandt had spent 18 months at Hull. There is no stretch of 18 months when Rembrandt is unaccounted for in the Netherlands, but can it be merely a coincidence that his longest absence in the documentation is 11 months in precisely that time frame of 1661 and 1662? It was so common for artists who had suffered bankruptcy to leave town in search of a fresh start, that I find the idea quite plausible.

    On the other hand, the notion that an artist with the reputation and stature of Rembrandt might have been in England for a stretch and made little to no impact–or even inroads–might be a sign of resistance to Dutch art rather than an embrace. More likely, though, it’s a sign that Rembrandt refused to play the patronage game by the established rules, whether dealing with Dutch clients or art lovers from farther afield.

    1. This is indeed intriguing, Paul, and I too have pondered the possibilities. As you know, this is not the only piece of evidence that has led to the assumption that Rembrandt visited England. There are those drawings of about 1640 of St. Alban’s, London and Windsor. They puzzle Otto Benesch because while the motifs could be derivative the signatures look good to him. Peter Schatborn does not include any of them in his Taschen catalogue of Rembrandt’s drawings, without commentary.

      There is indeed a gap in the documents between 23 October 1661 and 28 August 1662 that fills half of Vertue’s dates. But there are other gaps of that kind, such as between March 1659 and January 1660.

      I must say though that the absence of any other corroborating information on that stay in Hull (Hull?) keeps me from going along with Vertue. And even if Rembrandt were in England for half a year, I cannot see the silence about it as evidence of “resistance to Dutch art.”

      With thanks and greetings,

  2. I distinctly remember being taught in graduate school that the nationalistic approach of Pevsner, for example was verboten. And in 2002 Brown has the audacity to totally resurrect such thinking. He does try to be evenhanded regarding the iconography-no iconography battles but seems unable to restrain himself regarding the uniqueness of Dutch painting. I am almost relieved to see your amended title.

    1. Dear Deb,

      I’m thankful to you for giving me the chance to revisit my title yet once more. To be closer to unassailable correctness, I should have retreated to “Dutch artists in Restoration England” or some such cowardly qualification. (“Baroque” has been taboo for me since grad school. A column is on its way.) The word Dutchness itself reeks of essentialism. The art that I illustrate in the column was made by artists from the Netherlands, but little of it can even be thought of as an invention of theirs, let alone something uniquely appropriate to their country. As in the trade in grain, commodities, spices, fabrics, exotic delights and so much else, the Netherlands was a transit hub for import and export of art and artistic ideas as well.

      If you hadn’t made this comment, I would have had to amend the column itself. Extra thanks for that,

  3. Another area of interplay was in garden design. It is entertaining to see an older style in these English landscapes by Dutch painters, when the English ambassador Sir William Temple was busily writing to advocate less Italianate effects, which he attributed through Netherlands examples to a Chinese source, as “sharawadgi” –
    “popularized in mid-C18 England to describe irregularity, asymmetry, and the Picturesque qualities of being surprising through graceful disorder”
    and which seems in fact to have come from the VOC in Japan, where Dutch visited and admired the gardens of Kyoto.
    As you say, an entrepot.

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