Skip to Main Content

Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638)

June 28 – October 4, 2015
West Building, Main Floor, Northeast Galleries

Joachim Wtewael, Moses Striking the Rock (detail), 1624, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: A masterful storyteller, Joachim Wtewael (1566 – 1638) (pronunciation) depicted risqué mythological scenes and moralizing biblical stories with equal ease. He was a virtuoso draftsman and a brilliant colorist, adept at working on both monumental canvases and small copperplates. He could paint from the imagination and from life, creating striking portraits of family members and introducing naturalistic still lifes into many of his narrative compositions.

Born and raised in Utrecht, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, Wtewael spent four years in Italy and France early in his career. During these study years he embraced the popular international style known as mannerism, characterized by extreme refinement, artifice, and elegant distortion. Throughout his career, Wtewael 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. Yet his strong adherence to a mannerist style would also lead to the eventual decline of his reputation. This exhibition, which features 37 paintings and 11 drawings, sheds light on Wtewael’s artistic excellence, allowing him to reclaim his rightful place among the great masters of the Dutch Golden Age.

Organization: The exhibition is organized by the Centraal Museum Utrecht; the National Gallery of Art, Washington; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation.

Sponsor: This exhibition is made possible by The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art.  It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Attendance: 105,326

Catalog: Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638). By James Clifton et al. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2015.

Brochure: Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael by Margaret Doyle. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2015. 

Other Venues: Centraal Museum, Utrecht, February 21–May 25, 2015
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, November 1, 2015–January 31, 2016

Wtewael, Joachim Anthonisz
Dutch, 1566 - 1638
Gods and Goddesses Behaving Badly: The Art of Joachim Wtewael
Audio, Released: September 29, 2015, (57:57 minutes)
Joachim Wtewael: Pronunciation
Audio, Released: June 28, 2015, (00:02 minutes)
Press Event: Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter's Eye and Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638)
Audio, Released: June 23, 2015, (32:13 minutes)