Saturday, June 22, 2013

Delights Der Dutch Details

I've got a new summer girlfriend in Atlanta. You need to meet her!

She's Dutch. She's famous. She's likes to wear pearls and she's got a smile that stops people in their tracks.

This week at my freelance P.R. job, the High Museum of Art welcomed the long-awaited arrival of "Girl With A Pearl Earring." The world-famous canvas by Johannes Vermeer got its official Atlanta unveiling on Monday, joining 34 other Dutch masterworks on view through Sept. 29.

Wednesday's media preview and advance work got some nice play with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Public Broadcasting, Atlanta Magazine, Fox 5 Good Day Atlanta, Creative Loafing and the Associated Press.

The exhibition marks the first Southeast U.S. visit of the "Dutch Mona Lisa," and I have to say that gazing upon the canvas in person reminded me of crossing paths with Madonna, Lady Gaga, Cher, Annie Lennox and other famous and beautiful women backstage or from the photo pit at Philips Arena. Like shaking hands with Hillary Clinton a few years back, walking up to the "Girl With A Pearl Earring" for the first time provided those "meeting a celebrity" ganzen staten (Dutch goose bumps).

For this blogger, art exhibitions must deliver on several fronts to earn "outstanding" status. In addition to the inclusion of "important" works, a heavy dose of learning and "elements of interest" are key. I loved walking through "Girl With A Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis" for it entices the visitor to get up in the face of most of the works and really study the fine details.

A cousin of mine who experienced the exhibition in San Francisco a few weeks ago remarked that she loved how small and detailed many of the canvases are -- I concur, and I also delighted in the Dutch details many times.

The exhibition includes works grouped by landscapes/seascapes, still lifes, genre and history paintings and portraits.

While viewing the first few frames, visitors should be sure to closely study the snow-tipped leaves in "Winter Landscape" by Jacob van Ruisdael, and make time for his larger work "View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds" for the glorious countryside it portrays, filled with churches, windmills and fields under a cloudy summer sky (the title refers to the olde school methods of making linen -- ranked with beer as Haarlem's top exports -- and the fabric bleaching process that covered acres of farmland).

I also enjoyed an early peek at Mauritshuis -- the museum from which the exhibition is on loan during a two-year remodeling project -- shown in "A Hunting Party near the Hofvijver in The Hague, Seen from the Plaats" (later in the exhibition, a floor-to-ceiling photograph of modern day Mauritshuis quickly moved a trip to The Netherlands up on my world travel wish list).

The still lifes showcase Dutch flowers, food and property enjoyed by the wealthy elite, while the genre paintings bring to life a day in the middle class Holland.

The largest canvas by artist Jan Steen titled "As the Old Sing, So Twitter the Young" (see image at base of this post) includes a family party scene not too shy for its commentary on liberal lifestyles (smokes and drinks for all ages!) and the consequences for future generations, while a tiny canvas by the same artist, "The Oyster Eater," made me hungry (check out the fine porcelain detail -- how did the painter do that?). Studying the latter canvas was like standing before the tiny oil canvases by Salvador Dalí that were in the same High galleries not long ago. Wonderful surprises in the tiniest details.

While Tweeting about the Twitter-titled Steen, one may also wish to IM RE: "The Goldfinch" by Carel Fabritius (saved by conservation works, according to the exhibition catalog), the skull in "Vanitas Still Life" by Pieter Claesz, or "Still Life with Five Apricots" that look so real its as though peach fuzz grew on the canvas.

Other favorites include "Woman Writing a Letter" with a young lady donning an earring like the exhibition's namesake, and her neighbor "The Violin Player" with a life-sized female giggling through her wardrobe malfunction circa 1636. Tobacco and alcohol return in "A Man Smoking and a Woman Drinking in a Courtyard" and there's a Muppet-like quality to each of the peasant faces in "The Violinist."

The big guns come out with four magnificent Rembrandt van Rijn masterpieces, including "Susanna" and "Simeon's Song of Praise" flanked by portraits and tronies or facial paintings that capture people of era but not necessarily a specific person. Which brings us to the "Mona Lisa of the North" by Vermeer, who is not a specific person as portrayed by Scarlett Johansson in the film based on a fictional bestseller by the same name.

The "Girl With A Pearl Earring" gets to hang out in her own private green room just like the other lady rock stars mentioned in this post, with her gaze following your movements across the room like the eyes of the president's statue inside the Lincoln Memorial rotunda.

I highly recommend a visit to experience "Girl With A Pearl Earring" during her once in a lifetime stop at Atlanta, or during her final worldwide tour dates with The Frick Collection in New York and at a museum in Balogna, Italy, before her homecoming in The Hague. And though I don't often do this, I also recommend the audio tour and exhibition catalog which elaborate on many more details of the Dutch masterworks.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver except for "The Girl With The Pearl Earring" image from this link

1 comment:

Brian Carberry said...

Great article. I can hardly wait to make my way to the High Museum.

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