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High Museum Of Art To Exhibit Dutch Masterpieces

The High Museum of Art will present “Dutch Art in a Global Age: Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston” from April 19 through July 14.
Rachel Ruysch (Dutch, 1664–1750), Still Life with Flowers, 1709, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, promised gift of Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo, in support of the Center for Netherlandish Art. Photo courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The High Museum of Art will present “Dutch Art in a Global Age: Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston” from April 19 through July 14.

The exhibition brings together more than 100 paintings, prints, maps and decorative art objects spanning the 17th and first half of the 18th centuries by the period’s leading Dutch artists, including Rembrandt, Jacob van Ruisdael, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Willem Kalf and Rachel Ruysch.

The display explores how Dutch preeminence in international maritime trade and the influx of new goods and information transformed life in the Netherlands and led to a remarkable cultural flowering. The art of this period reflects how the Dutch wished to represent themselves, their ideals and their concerns.

Few artists addressed the human toll of colonialism head-on, but many paintings reveal the influence of international expansion on Dutch art and society. The exhibition addresses these complex histories through up-to-date scholarship, contextualizing 17th- and 18th-century Dutch art in a fresh, compelling way. 

“This wonderful exhibition from the MFA opens a door for us to reflect upon a remarkably dynamic and complex history via quintessential artworks of that era and region,” said Rand Suffolk, director of the High. “We look forward to sharing that experience with our audiences.”

The presentation is organized into six sections that address not only the positive image the Dutch wished to project but also the dark side of their new prosperity. This includes urban poverty and the Netherlands’ role in the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism. These topics have rarely been addressed in important art exhibitions.

Presentation topics

  •  The World at Home” begins with still life paintings that demonstrate the outstanding technical prowess of Dutch artists. Juxtaposing still lifes with examples of Chinese porcelain, Dutch Delftware and intricate silver objects, this section foregrounds the foreign origins of new luxury products that shaped daily life.

  •  The World Beyond” illustrates the establishment of trading posts and colonies in various foreign countries and investigates the exploitation at the heart of these enterprises. Images of the sea, foreign landscapes, harbors and ships evoke global trade networks dominated by the Dutch East India Company, the world’s first multinational corporation, founded in 1602, and the Dutch West India Company, established in 1621.  

  •  Amsterdam as a Cosmopolitan Hub” showcases the prosperity and explosive growth of the urban environment. Paintings and prints evince Amsterdam’s new position as a trading center through views of a new stock exchange, warehouses, shipyards, churches, newly constructed neighborhoods and the ambitious canal system that connected them all.

  • “Global Citizens” reviews the evolving identity of the Dutch. Its society was one of the most diverse in Europe, encompassing immigrant groups of religious refugees, itinerant laborers and displaced minorities, including Amsterdam’s African Atlantic community of sailors, soldiers, craftspeople and servants. This section features superb painted portraits and a rich selection of Rembrandt etchings.

  • “Celebrating the Familiar” reflects the renewed pride in the beauty of the Dutch homeland as a counterweight to global expansion. Artists such as Jan van Goyen, Jacob van Ruisdael, Philips Koninck and Hendrick Avercamp developed new styles of naturalistic landscapes that took inspiration from the distinctive local terrain, while others specialized in humble scenes of domestic animals.

  • “Conspicuous Consumption” refers to the immense riches many Dutch individuals amassed and the resulting changes in consumer habits. Some paintings seem to endorse new products — including sugar, tobacco, coffee and tea — central to this ethos of cosmopolitan prosperity, while other images seem more critical

“We are fortunate to be able to present this extraordinary collection of Dutch masterpieces from the 17th and 18th centuries. … Even more exciting is how their images and objects gain fresh interest and new significance in this exhibition by being seen through the lens of globalism and interpreted in terms of the economic, political and cultural realities that shaped art and society at the time,” said Claudia Einecke, the High’s France B. Bunzl Family curator of European art.

This exhibition will be on view in the Cousins Special Exhibition Galleries located on the Second Level in the Wieland Pavilion.

Related Programs

Vigtel Conversation: Rembrandt Prints

Saturday, May 4
High Museum of Art
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Members: Free; Not-Yet-Members: $15
Registration required  

Examining a Changing World: Dutch Art in a Global Age

Tuesdays from May 21 to June 11
High Museum of Art, Works on Paper Room
10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Members: $200; Not-Yet-Members: $250
Registration required  

Studio Sessions: Still Life Painting

Wednesday, May 22
High Museum of Art
1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Members: $25; Not-Yet-Members: $35
Registration required  

Studio Sessions: Still Life Painting

Thursday, May 23
High Museum of Art
1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Members: $25; Not-Yet-Members: $35
Registration required  

Photo caption: Rachel Ruysch (Dutch, 1664–1750), Still Life with Flowers, 1709, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, promised gift of Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo, in support of the Center for Netherlandish Art. Photo courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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