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Gods and Goddesses Behaving Badly: The Art of Joachim Wtewael

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art. In this lecture recorded on September 20, 2015, to honor the exhibition Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638), Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. presents the artist as a master storyteller, virtuoso draftsman, and brilliant colorist. Born and raised in Utrecht, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, Wtewael embraced the popular international style known as mannerism, characterized by extreme refinement, artifice, and elegant distortion. He remained one of the leading proponents of this style, even as most early seventeenth-century Dutch artists shifted to a more naturalistic manner of painting. Wtewael’s inventive compositions, teeming with twisting, choreographed figures and saturated with pastels and acidic colors, retained their appeal for his patrons. Wtewael depicted risqué mythological scenes and moralizing biblical stories with equal ease. Yet his strong adherence to a mannerist style would also lead to the eventual decline of his reputation. On view from June 28 through October 4, 2015, and featuring 37 paintings and 11 drawings, the exhibition sheds light on Wtewael’s artistic excellence and allows him to reclaim his rightful place among the great masters of the Dutch Golden Age.