Art Surpassing Nature

Jacob van Ruisdael, 'The Castle of Bentheim', 1653

Art Surpassing Nature:
Dutch Landscapes in the Age of Rembrandt and Ruisdael
29 October 2012 – 20 January 2013
Admission free.

An exhibition devoted to the National Gallery of Ireland’s collection of Dutch seventeenth-century landscapes will open in the Beit Wing on Monday 29 October 2012.

Art Surpassing Nature brings together some 30 works from the Gallery’s outstanding collection of Dutch landscape paintings and drawings, comprising iconic pieces by Jacob van Ruisdael (The Castle of Bentheim, 1653), Meindert Hobbema (A Wooded Landscape, 1663), Hendrick Avercamp (Scene on the Ice, c.1620), and Rembrandt van Rijn (Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, 1647).

Dutch artists were the first to paint naturalistic images of their own countryside. They did not create their works outside on an easel, however. As paints needed to be prepared in the studio, artists produced their landscapes indoors with the help of sketches. They also made use of their imagination to improve on nature. Jacob van Ruisdael, for example, exaggerated the elevation of the hill in The Castle of Bentheim, to make the fortress look more impressive than it is in reality.

Dr. Adriaan Waiboer, curator of the exhibition, says: “Dutch landscapes are notable for their variety. In addition to views of Holland’s green pastures, winter scenes enjoyed considerable popularity. Such paintings allowed artists, such as Hendrick Avercamp, to depict ice skaters having fun. Some painters represented landscapes by night, as exemplified by Rembrandt’s nocturnal masterpiece in the collection, which is one of just nine known painted landscapes by the artist.”

A series of free public talks on Dutch 17th–century landscape painting will take place in December.

Art Surpassing Nature, NGI Lecture Series (December 2012). Admission free.

Sunday 2 December, 3pm: An Introduction to the Exhibition
Dr. Adriaan Waiboer, NGI Curator of Northern European Art

Tuesday 4 December, 10.30am: The Popularity of Italianate Landscapes in 17th-Century Holland
Louise Kelly, University College Dublin

Sunday 9 December, 3pm: Dutch Landscapes in the National Gallery of Ireland: Function, Evolution and Meaning
Dr. John Loughman, Head of the School of Art History and Cultural Policy, University College Dublin

Tuesday 11 December, 10.30am: Exotic Landscape Painting in the Work of Frans Post (1612-1680)
Dr. Simon Knowles, History of Art Department, University College Cork

Sunday 16 December, 3pm: Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/9 – 1682) and Dutch Landscape Painting
William Gallagher, freelance art historian and lecturer

Tuesday 18 December, 10.30am: Knowing Nature; Van Gogh (1853-1890) and Dutch Landscape Tradition
Janet McLean, NGI Curator of European Art 1850-1950


About the Dutch Collection in the National Gallery of Ireland

Among its varied holdings, the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI) has an exceptionally strong collection of Dutch paintings from the seventeenth century. The total number of paintings is just over 200 works and all of Holland's major masters are represented: Rembrandt van Rijn, Jacob van Ruisdael, Meindert Hobbema, Jan van Goyen and Hendrick Avercamp. The bulk of the Gallery’s Dutch collection was acquired during the period 1860-1915 by the early Directors of the NGI, George Mulvany, Henry Doyle, and Walter Armstrong, all of whom had a strong predilection for masters from the Low Countries. Most of the Dutch pictures that entered the collection during the twentieth century were isolated donations and bequests. In 1901, Sir Henry Page Turner Barron left most of his collection to the Gallery. His bequest was the largest gift of Dutch works ever given to the NGI and included pictures by Jan-Baptist Weenix, Melchior d'Hondecoeter, Willem Heda, Nicolaes Berchem and Soloman van Ruysdael. The most important gift in recent years was that of Sir Alfred and Lady Beit in 1987. That donation included the Vermeer, the two Metsus, the Ruisdael, as well as Meindert Hobbema's Wooded Landscape and Jan Steen's Wedding at Cana. In recent years, the NGI has made a number of noteworthy purchases of Dutch paintings, including two works by Gerrit van Honthorst and Aelbert Cuyp respectively, which belonged to well-known Irish collections in the eighteenth century.