237 Scholar in a Polish study

The Jagiellonian University in Kraków, one of the oldest in Europe, has a museum of scientific instruments and works of art in the picturesque, fortress-like Collegium Maius. This summer it is holding an exhibition of both kinds of objects, in a display called The scholar and his study. A good opportunity to see artists and scientists taking on their respective unequal challenges, and a good excuse, for those who need one, to visit Kraków. Continue reading “237 Scholar in a Polish study”

236 A question to my predecessor

Bob Haak (1923-2005) was an exceptionally inspiring art historian and museum man. His books on Rembrandt and the Dutch painters of the Golden Age are classics, and his work on the Amsterdam Historical Museum set new international standards for an enriched museum experience. Schwartz’s question to him concerns the Rembrandt Research Project, which was his brainchild. Why hasn’t it worked as he conceived it, as an instrument for deciding which paintings are by Rembrandt and which are not? Continue reading “236 A question to my predecessor”

230 Nation building on Museum Square

The self-stated mission of the New Rijksmuseum, now under construction, is to "tell the story" of Dutch history and art. In doing so, the museum distances itself from the Number One museum in all other European countries and enters the realm of nationalistic institutions such as the Israel Museum, which mounts a markedly tendentious presentation of the local past. Continue reading “230 Nation building on Museum Square”

228 Two royal collections in London

The choice of subjects in a new exhibition of Dutch pictures from the British Royal Collection is compared with that in a 1971 predecessor to this show. Schwartz detects a shift from aristocratic sporting subjects to poor man’s scenes from daily life. Until 30 October, the visitor can go from Buckingham Palace to Dulwich Picture Gallery to admire another royal collection, including splendid Dutch paintings. Assembled for the last king of Poland, it ended up, 20 years after his abdication, in a London suburb. Continue reading “228 Two royal collections in London”

226 How Sterre came home

The jacket image of the new summary illustrated catalogue of the Mauritshuis is the double portrait of Constantijn Huygens and his wife Suzanna van Baerle, Sterre. This brings back vivid memories of the acquisition of the painting by the Mauritshuis 13 years ago. Schwartz tells the inside story of his role in that coup, and that of the venerable Julius Held. Continue reading “226 How Sterre came home”

225 The 20th century strikes back

The Foundation for Prussian Palaces and Gardens has published a massive compendium of the easel paintings it lost during and after the Second World War. Most turn out not to have been destroyed, but misappropriated or taken off by the Russians as "trophy art." Schwartz stands up for the international conventions that prohibit taking cultural heritage as booty, no matter how just a war might be or how much one’s own side has suffered. Continue reading “225 The 20th century strikes back”

224 Learning moments

Commemorating the death of two old friends in the past year, Schwartz thinks of experiences with them that changed his life. With Bob Cahn he learned a lesson in gentlemanliness and from Stuart Hampshire the importance of supporting institutions in which you believe. Putting these two things together goes some way toward a model for the good life in society, a better one than preaching to others about their deficient values. Continue reading “224 Learning moments”