Woman Holding a Balance
c. 1664, oil on canvas
Widener Collection, 1942.9.97
With all that’s going on in DC: spring, citywide events, and new museum exhibits seemingly popping up everywhere, it’s easy to forget that many museums have outstanding permanent collections also on display. Walking through the National Gallery of Art I stumbled upon The Dutch and Flemish Cabinet Galleries and was immediately drawn in. I had not really thought about this type of art since I was much younger on a visit to Rijks Museum in Amsterdam. This all got me to thinking about “classic” art and some of my favorite pieces. I realized that while I know what my favorite styles and works are, I too easily keep those in my mind as my favorites instead of revisiting the reasons why and actually going back to see them.
The works on display are absolutely gorgeous. In the past, they would be displayed in schilderijkabinet, rooms in Dutch and Flemish houses used to display these smaller works of art. While the subjects of these paintings vary greatly, and really do deserve their own book let alone blog, my eye was drawn towards those which showed human interaction and daily life. In other posts I’ve spoken about what a particular work says about a culture but I want to go in a different direction today. What amazes me about many of these works are the interactions between people and people and inanimate objects. The entire story of these works can be seen in their expressions. I can see how they feel about whatever it is they are doing just by a slight tilt of the head or turn of the lip. Their faces could be considered wordless captions of the painting: nothing is said but expression and gestures tell you their story.
This is not intended to be a quick review of 17th century Dutch art, but rather a reminder that in addition to catching the latest traveling exhibit, permanent museum collections are also well-worth visiting. Your favorite pieces of art are your favorites for a reason and regular visits will nurture your relationship with art.