The history, art history and architecture of Britain and its Empire, Europe, the Mediterranean and North America, 1640-1940.
15 July 2013
Great art exhibitions in Amsterdam and Dresden
In the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company prospered in international trade, bringing enormous wealth; soon the first stock exchange was established in the centre of Amsterdam. The Dutch trading economy was booming and probably as a result, Dutch culture flourished in architecture, the arts and sciences. Old masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer made the Netherlands a major centre of world art. No more Spanish oppression of its tiny northern neighbour; no more suppression of Dutch Protestantism. Tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725) was an ambitious young man, travelling to Western Europe several times. His achievements included reforming Russia’s military and the church, expanding trade and industry, and improving education and public health. He wanted to turn Russia into a modern European power and started by making St Petersburg an elegant and modernised capital city. The very entreprenurial Peter the Great drew on the newly independent Netherlands for his inspiration.
Tsar Peter the Great of Russia, after 1717 ? artist, 143 х 110 cm State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Tsar Peter befriended many leading figures in Dutch society, such as Nicolaas Witsen (Amsterdam mayor), Christoffel van Brants (shipper owner, merchant), Albert Seba (apothecary) and Frederik Ruysch (physician and botanist). The young Tsar wanted to know everything about Dutch shipbuilding, instrument making, carpentry, etching, dissection, paper making, bookmaking and landscape garden design.
Construction of the north-western sector of Amsterdam’s canals was started in 1613 and finished in 1625. Decades later, our Tsar Peter used Amsterdam’s canal ring as inspiration for St Petersburg’s canal systems. So the canal system was a visible mark of the the special relationship between the Netherlands and Russia. And the timing is perfect: 2013 is the 400th anniversary of the canals.
The two countries have been major trading partners ever since Tsar Peter was 17 and in 2009, the special relationship was sealed. The Hermitage Amsterdam, the only European satellite of the famous St Petersburg museum, was opened. Now the Hermitage Amsterdam has a major exhibition on Tsar Peter, centred on paintings and art objects from the collection of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. The exhibition is called Peter the Great: an Inspired Tsar. It shows paintings of course, but also historical artefacts, gold jewellery, weapons, original documents, the Tsar’s own clothes and one of his coaches. The collection mainly comes from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, rounded out by objects from other institutions in the Netherlands. The exhibition closes in mid-September 2013. ** Constable, Delacroix, Friedrich and Goya. A Shock to the Senses is an exhibition by the New Masters Picture Gallery in the Albertinum, Dresden. John Constable (1776–1837), Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840) and Francisco de Goya (1746–1828) were vital in shaping modern art in the late 18th century and into the early 19th century. Their outstanding paintings had a formative influence on the age of Romanticism in Europe and continued to inspire and teach the generations of artists that came after them. The gallery has traced the influence of these four artists by examining works by mid 19th century artists like Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Adolph Menzel (1815-1905)and Édouard Manet (1832-1883), in context. This Dresden exhibition wanted to present the museum as both an artistic workshop and a source of inspiration. The curators demonstrated that art does not come into being solely as the result of a creative act in the artist’s studio, but could often be traced back to the artist’s direct engagement with historical models. Thus the curators placed works by artists in surprising combinations, forcing the viewer to consider sometimes unexpected historical references.
Works on loan from international institutions including the: Prado Madrid, Louvre Paris, Victoria & Albert Museum London, Statens Museum for Kunst Copenhagen, Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, Kunst Museum Basel, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Munich and Hamburger Kunsthalle. This exhibition ends in August 2013.