Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry

Image courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington.

PLEASE NOTE: Tickets for this exhibition will be available to book online from mid April. 

The National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin is organising a landmark exhibition, Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry, in collaboration with the Musée du Louvre, Paris, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington. The exhibition will explore the fascinating network of relationships between Johannes Vermeer and Dutch genre painters of the period 1650–1675. 

Venues & Dates
20 February - 22 May 2017
Musée du Louvre, Paris

17 June - 17 September 2017 
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

22 October 2017 - 21 January 2018 
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Dutch genre paintings of the period 1650–1675 rank among the pinnacles of Western European art. While Johannes Vermeer is currently the most renowned painter of such scenes, the Delft master was only one of many artists of the period who excelled in capturing everyday surroundings in exquisite detail. Other major genre painters included Gerrit Dou, Gerard ter Borch, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch, Gabriel Metsu and Frans van Mieris. These artists frequently drew inspiration from each other’s paintings and then tried to surpass each other in verisimilitude, technical prowess and aesthetic appeal. This vibrant artistic rivalry contributed to the exceptionally high quality of their combined oeuvre. 

Vermeer’s subjects, compositions and figure types owe much to works by artists from other Dutch cities. For example, his depictions of a young woman reading a letter in a moment of quiet contemplation derives from the work of Ter Borch, the Deventer artist whose pictorial innovations and psychological insights had a profound impact on his contemporaries. Vermeer also freely borrowed from artists from Dordrecht, Leiden and Amsterdam. In turn, genre painters from outside Delft adopted stylistic and thematic elements from his work to elevate their own compositions. Thus, rather than presenting Vermeer as an enigmatic artist working in isolation, the aim of this exhibition is to highlight his relationships with his contemporaries. 

This exhibition invites visitors to take on the role of seventeenth-century art lovers and compare small groups of paintings that reflect the cross-currents of inspiration. Visitors will also be able to observe that artists had individual ways of inserting, changing and disguising their borrowings. 

The exhibition’s curatorial team is comprised of:
  • Dr Adriaan E. Waiboer, Head Curator, National Gallery of Ireland
  • Dr Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Curator of Northern Baroque Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington
  • Dr Blaise Ducos, Curator of 17th-and 18th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, Musée du Louvre, Paris. 
Catalogue & Website
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue and benefits from an extensive research programme. It will be complemented by a website currently being developed in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), The Hague. 

A  documentary film, entitled, ‘Vermeer - The Man His Time His World’ is currently in production, to be released in 2017 as one of the events associated with the National Gallery of Ireland’s exhibition ‘Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry’. The film is directed by Jean-Pierre Cottet and produced by James Mitchell, as a co-production between iO Production (Paris) and Soho Moon Pictures (Dublin), with the support of Arté in France, PBS in USA, and RTÉ, Ireland's public service broadcaster. It will be broadcast on RTÉ One Television next summer to coincide with the exhibition during its run here. 

Louvre         National Gallery of Ireland        National Gallery of Art, Washington