Opening on 29 October is Art Surpassing Nature: Dutch Landscapes in the Age of Rembrandt and Ruisdael, a display of master paintings and drawings by Dutch seventeenth-century artists such as Jacob van Ruisdael, Aelbert Cuyp, Hendrick Avercamp and Rembrandt. The exhibition will continue until 20 January 2013.
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,1653, to make the fortress look more impressive than it is in reality.
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 one of Rembrandt’s nocturnal masterpieces, Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, 1647. Others travelled abroad to paint Italy’s countryside, bathed in the golden glow of the Mediterranean sun. A handful of artists even specialised in views of Brazil, a Dutch colony at the time.
In addition to some twenty paintings, this exhibition includes highlights of the National Gallery of Ireland’s collection of seventeenth-century landscape drawings. These masterpieces on paper show the same diversity as the paintings. They range from depictions of cattle grazing near sand dunes to representations of travellers in a mountainous landscape bathed in Italian sunlight. Some of the drawings on view were made in preparation for painting or prints. Other sheets are ‘finished’ drawings, which artists sold as independent works of art.