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Lectures
Works in Progress
Innovation, Competition, and Fine Painting Technique: Marketing High-Life Style in the Dutch 17th Century

October 30 at 12:10, 1:10
West Building Lecture Hall
Melanie Gifford, research conservator, National Gallery of Art, and Lisha Glinsman, conservation scientist, National Gallery of Art

Recent technical research at the National Gallery of Art explores artistic exchange among the painters featured in the exhibition Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry, on view from October 22, 2017, through January 21, 2018. In this lecture held as part of the Works in Progress series, Melanie Gifford and Lisha Glinsman share discoveries from their research. Study reveals that these elegant scenes, painted for an elite Dutch art market, shared physical characteristics that defined a collective “high-life” style. At the same time, the research shows that painters each marketed their works by cultivating a distinctive personal manner and that, through subtle variations of technique and materials, they could sell at somewhat different price levels. Finally, technical study offers direct evidence for 17th century artists’ evaluations of their contemporaries’ artistic style: the recognizable features they selected and quoted in their own works for the amusement of sophisticated collectors.

Gerard ter Borch, Woman Writing a Letter (detail), c. 1655-56
oil on panel, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague. Gift of Sir Henri W.A. Deterding, 1928.

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