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Release Date: April 11, 2000

First International Exhibition Devoted to Paintings of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Master Gerrit Dou at the National Gallery of Art, April 16–August 6, 2000

Washington, DC—The first international loan exhibition devoted to the illusionistic and refined paintings of Gerrit Dou, one of the most esteemed Dutch artists of his time, will be on view in the Dutch Cabinet Galleries in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, 16 April-6 August 2000. Comprising 34 works, Gerrit Dou (1613-1675): Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt, covers the artist's career from his early days as Rembrandt's first pupil through his service as respected head of an influential painting school four decades later. After opening in Washington, Gerrit Dou will travel to Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 6 September-19 November 2000, and the Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands, 9 December 2000-25 February 2001.

Shell Oil Company Foundation, on behalf of the employees of Shell Oil Company, is proud to make possible this presentation to the American people.

"Greatly admired and highly valued in his day, but less appreciated by late-nineteenth, and early-twentieth-century critics, Dou has been rightfully restored to prominence in recent decades," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "We are grateful to Shell Oil Company Foundation for its long history of support of Gallery exhibitions."

"We are delighted to help bring this exhibition to the National Gallery of Art," said Steven Miller, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Shell Oil Company. "This continues a proud tradition of collaboration between Shell and the National Gallery of Art that spans fifteen years."

Gerrit Dou (1613-1675): Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt is the third in a series of exhibitions funded by Shell Oil Company Foundation to explore the Gallery's rich collection of Dutch and Flemish art. Previous exhibitions in this series include, From Botany to Bouquets: Flowers in Northern Art (1999) and A Collector's Cabinet (1998). Other Shell sponsored exhibitions at the Gallery have included Jan Steen: Painter and Storyteller (1996), Piet Mondrian: 1872-1944 (1995), and the Age of Bruegel: Netherlandish Drawings in the Sixteenth Century (1986).

Among Dou's celebrated views of daily life are depictions of mothers and children, scholars, musicians, astronomers, schoolmasters, shopkeepers, and painters in their studios. Created with characteristic attention to detail and interest in illusion, these small, and refined images incorporate symbolic elements reflecting the complexity of life's moral and ethical dilemmas. They reflect a level of craftsmanship that was the measure against which many of Dou's contemporaries were judged.

Gerrit Dou, whose last name is pronounced "Dow" and who is often referred to in art histories as "Gerard," was born in Leiden, a lively cultural and intellectual Dutch city. He studied first with his father, a glass painter, and then for three years with young Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) in the master's early Leiden period.

Staying on in his native city, Dou established the Leiden school of "fijnschilders" ("fine painters"), whose style was widely admired and emulated. His small-scale paintings, marked by expert draughtsmanship, elegant color and finish, skillful use of light and shadow, and careful attention to detailed accuracy, attracted an international clientele that purchased his work for high prices.

Highlights of the exhibition include Painter with Pipe and Book (c. 1645), a trompe l'oeil masterpiece in which a curtain has been drawn aside to reveal the contemplative subject peering out from a window, and Dou's most ambitious work, The Quack (1652), a moralizing image of a charlatan hawking his medicinal wares to a small group, with the artist himself looking on from a nearby window. Among the most compelling, intimate paintings of interiors are The Young Mother (1658) and Lady at Her Toilet (1667), distinguished by brilliant colors, dramatic light, and refined technique.

The candlelit, mysterious The Night School (1665) and the elegant, seductive Woman at the Clavichord (1665) demonstrate how Dou's meticulous style and careful arrangements of light and dark draw spectators into compelling narrative scenes. The Hermit (1670), from the National Gallery's collection, a complex composition of a lone figure praying in the wilderness, reflects Dou's interest in the virtues of piety and devotion. Several self-portraits, showing the painter in his studio surrounded by objects and tools of his trade, invite viewers to ponder the place of artists in society.

Gerrit Dou is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, in association with the Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague. The curators of the exhibition are Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., curator of northern baroque paintings at the National Gallery of Art, and guest curator Ronni Baer,The Mrs. Russell W. Baker Curator of European Painting at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

A fully illustrated catalogue was written by Baer, with contributions by Annetje Boersma, a Dutch conservator, and Wheelock, who also served as editor. It is available for $27.50 (softcover) and $55 (hardcover) in the Gallery Shops. To order by phone, call (301) 322-5900 or (800) 697-9350.

The exhibition in Washington is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

General Information

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phone: (202) 842-6353
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Anabeth Guthrie
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Exhibition Press Release

Curator Biography:
Authur K. Wheelock, Jr.