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Release Date: April 28, 2017

Landmark Exhibition Brings to Light Relationships Between Vermeer and his Contemporaries

Johannes Vermeer The Love Letter, c. 1669-70 oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum, purchased with the support of Vereniging Rembrandt

Johannes Vermeer, The Love Letter, c. 1669-70
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum, purchased with the support of Vereniging Rembrandt

Washington, DC (Updated September 29, 2017)—More than 20 years after the legendary exhibition Johannes Vermeer, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, presents Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry. On view in the West Building from October 22, 2017, through January 21, 2018, the exhibition examines the artistic exchanges among Dutch Golden Age painters from 1650 to 1675, when they reached the height of their technical ability and mastery at depicting domestic life.

Some 65 masterpieces by Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries—including Gerard ter Borch, Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch, Nicolas Maes, Eglon van der Neer, Caspar Netscher, and Jacob Ochtervelt—are grouped by theme, composition, and technique, thereby demonstrating how these painters admired, challenged, and pushed each other to greater artistic achievement. The paintings also reflect how these masters responded to the changing artistic climate of the Dutch Republic in the third quarter of the 17th century, particularly in Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden, Deventer, Rotterdam, and Delft.

Since 1995 the Gallery's curator of northern baroque paintings, Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., has mounted more than a dozen monographic exhibitions on Dutch artists, including several featured in this exhibition. Among them are Johannes Vermeer (1995), Jan Steen (1996), Gerrit Dou (2000), Gerard ter Borch (2004–2005), Frans van Mieris (2006), and Gabriel Metsu (2011). As the culmination of these monographic exhibitions, Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting reveals how these painters were artistically more connected than has previously been understood.

"The 1995 Johannes Vermeer show endures as one of the most significant exhibitions in the Gallery's history. Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting will undoubtedly have the same impact while also deeply enriching our understanding of the web of influence among 17th-century Dutch artists," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington. "This exhibition would not have been possible without the incredible generosity of the lenders, both museums and private collectors, or the support of the Hata Foundation, Dr. Mihael and Mrs. Mahy Polymeropoulos, The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art, and BP p.l.c."

Exhibition Support

BP is proud to be a major sponsor this exhibition as part of its support of the arts in the U.S. and U.K.

"As the nation's largest energy investor, BP's commitment to America goes well beyond providing the energy and jobs that fuel economic prosperity. We also have a long history of supporting the arts and cultural activities in the U.S. and around the world," said Geoff Morrell, Senior Vice President, U.S. Communications & External Affairs, BP America. "We are especially delighted to be able to play a part in helping the National Gallery of Art make this historic exhibition possible, and we hope it will be a tremendous success for the museum and a memorable experience for all who see it."

The exhibition is also generously supported by the Hata Foundation, Dr. Mihael and Mrs. Mahy Polymeropoulos, and The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art. The exhibition in Washington is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Exhibition Organization and Curators

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, and the Musée du Louvre, Paris. The exhibition is on view at the Musée du Louvre from February 20 through May 22, 2017 and at the National Gallery of Ireland from June 17 through September 17, 2017.

The exhibition is curated by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington; Adriaan Waiboer, head of collections and research, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (who initiated the exhibition concept); and Blaise Ducos, curator of Dutch and Flemish paintings, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Exhibition Highlights

Dutch genre painting reached the pinnacle of its popularity and technique during the third quarter of the 17th century as a network of artists working in different cities found success depicting scenes of the daily life of the elite. Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting makes clear that artists often studied and emulated paintings by other masters. While little is known about exactly when artists saw paintings by those working in different cities, travel across The Netherlands was relatively easy at the time with the country's efficient infrastructure of roads and canals. Artists would have been able to make short journeys to visit painters' studios as well as the homes of collectors and art dealers. There are also specific instances of contact between artists such as cosigned documents, as with Vermeer and Ter Borch; a few known teacher-student relationships, including Dou and Van Mieris; and anecdotes—for example, that Steen and Van Mieris were reputedly drinking buddies.

The paintings in the exhibition are presented in groups that illustrate how artists inspired each other in their subject matter, figural motifs, stylistic decisions, and painting techniques. Subjects include women writing letters, musical duets, astronomers, lace makers, and a woman holding a parrot. One group compares three paintings of women with lutes by Van Mieris, Van Der Neer, and Vermeer while another demonstrates how a number of artists adapted an important pictorial motif in their work—a female figure standing with her back to the viewer. The motif was introduced by Ter Borch in his renowned Gallant Conversation ("The Paternal Admonition") (c. 1654, Rijksmuseum) and then utilized in a variety of ways by De Hooch, Steen, and Ochtervelt.

The direction of influence did not strictly flow from masters to their followers. In many ways, Ter Borch and Dou were the forefathers of high-life genre painting in The Netherlands. They were incredibly influential to the younger generation of artists, many of whom were their pupils. However, the two painters also studied and emulated the work of their admirers. For instance, Dou, in his painting The Dropsical Woman (1663, Musée du Louvre), looked carefully at Van Mieris's earlier depiction of that same theme, but enlarged his interior setting and increased the number of figures to create a more ambitious work than his former pupil produced.

Vermeer, no less than his contemporaries, looked carefully at paintings by different artists, and most of the groups in this exhibition include at least one work by the Delft master. A particularly interesting connection exists between Vermeer's Woman with a Pearl Necklace (c. 1662–1665, Gemäldegalerie) and Van Mieris's Woman before a Mirror (c. 1662, Gemäldegalerie). The similar subjects of these paintings, in which a woman is shown standing in profile before a table and adjusting her necklace, was not their invention but that of Ter Borch in his Young Woman at her Toilet with a Maid (c. 1650–1651, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). Through such juxtapositions, one is able to understand the distinctive qualities that each of these artists brought to their subjects. For example, the woman in Vermeer's Woman with a Pearl Necklace has a timelessness that evokes inner strength and purity, thus providing this genre scene with a moral and philosophical underpinning more traditionally associated with history paintings.

Catalog and Exhibition Shops

Published by the National Gallery of Art, Ireland, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Musée du Louvre, Paris, in association with Yale University Press, a fully illustrated catalog features essays by the curators and an esteemed group of international scholars. The catalog also includes a timeline of the recorded and conjectured visits of 10 of these artists and 22 entries discussing the various thematic groupings of paintings. Featuring 180 color illustrations, the 320-page catalog will be available in both hardcover and softcover at shop.nga.gov, or by calling (800) 697-9350 or (202) 842-6002; faxing (202) 789-3047; or emailing [email protected].

The Gallery Shops will celebrate the exhibition with a full suite of specialty items including Delft pottery, rich leather journals with marbled end-papers, elegant pearl jewelry, and tapestry-inspired scarves and handbags reflecting elements from the exhibition. In addition to the fully illustrated exhibition catalog, gift books, DVDs, and other scholarly publications enhance the exhibition experience. An assortment of stationery items and reproductions highlights several other key works by various artists, and a selection of images will also be available through NGA Custom Prints, to be designed to the customer's specifications. Items are available for purchase at special installations near the exhibition and in the West Building, Concourse, and East Building Shops; at shop.nga.gov; (800) 697-9350 (phone); (202) 789-3047 (fax); or [email protected].

Vermeer-Inspired Dining

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Garden Café presents an assortment of specialty Dutch dishes featuring regional cheeses, fresh seafood, seasonal ingredients, and traditional desserts. Vermeer-inspired items are available during the week and weekend brunch buffet.

View more details on Vermeer-inspired shopping and dining opportunities.

Related Programs

Lectures
Introduction to the Exhibition—Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry
October 22 at 2:00 p.m.
East Building Auditorium
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington, and Adriaan Waiboer, head of collections and research, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. A signing of the exhibition catalog follows.
A livestream of the lecture will be available in additional locations in the Gallery and on nga.gov/live.

Dutch Burghers and their Wine: Nary a Sour Grape
November 14 at 2:00 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall
Henriette Rahusen, exhibition research assistant, department of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Time and Temporality in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting
November 21 at 2:00 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall
Alexandra Libby, assistant curator, department of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Reflections in Mirrors in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting
November 28 at 2:00 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall
Lynn Russell, head of education, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Striking the Right Chord: Seeing Music in Dutch Genre Painting
December 5 at 2:00 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall
Jennifer Henel, curatorial coordinator for digital content, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Virtuous Rivalry in the Age of Vermeer
December 12 at 2:00 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall
H. Perry Chapman, Professor and Associate Chair, Northern Baroque Art, University of Delaware

Pictures in Paintings
December 19 at 2:00 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall
Eric Denker, senior lecturer, National Gallery of Art, Washington

More than Mimicry: The Parrot in Dutch Genre Painting
December 26 at 2:00 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall
Kristen H. Gonzalez, curatorial assistant, department of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Johannes Vermeer: An Artist of His Time Yet Timeless
January 7 at 2:00 p.m.
East Building Auditorium
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Works in Progress Series
This lunchtime series highlights new research by Gallery staff, interns, fellows, and special guests. The 30-minute talks are followed by question-and-answer periods.

Innovation, Competition, and Fine Painting Technique: Marketing High-Life Style in the Dutch 17th-Century
October 30 at 12:10 and 1:10 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall
Melanie Gifford, research conservator, and Lisha Glinsman, conservation scientist, both National Gallery of Art, Washington

More than Mimicry: The Parrot in Dutch Genre Painting
November 20 at 12:10 and 1:10 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall
Kristen H. Gonzalez, curatorial assistant, department of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Time and Temporality in 17th-Century Dutch Genre Painting
December 18 at 12:10 and 1:10 p.m.
West Building Lecture Hall
Alexandra Libby, assistant curator, department of northern baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Slide Overviews
A Slide Introduction to Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry
West Building Lecture Hall
Introductory slide overviews of the exhibition, by education staff lecturers, will be offered several times a week in November and December. Exact times to be determined.

Film
Vermeer, Beyond Time
December 20–23, 27–30 at noon and December 31 at 2:00 p.m.
East Building Auditorium
This new documentary considers how Vermeer came to become so beloved by art lovers around the world today, focusing on his paintings while also exploring Vermeer's family circumstances, his artistic contemporaries, and the wider world of the short-lived Dutch Republic. (Jean-Pierre Cottet, Guillaume Cottet, 2017, 86 minutes)

Concert
Piffaro, the Renaissance Band
January 21 at 3:30 p.m.
West Building, West Garden Court
Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, delights audiences with highly polished recreations of the rustic music of the peasantry and the elegant sounds of the official wind bands of the late medieval and Renaissance periods. Its ever-expanding instrumentarium includes shawms, dulcians, sackbuts, recorders, krumhorns, bagpipes, lutes, guitars, harps, and a variety of percussion—all careful reconstructions of instruments from the period. On the final day of the exhibition, Piffaro will respond to the various scenes of music-makers and images of musical instruments represented in the show, performing music Vermeer and his rivals may have been listening to as they painted.

J. Carter Brown Memorial Evening with Educators
Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry
Wednesday, November 8, 2017, 4:30-7:30 p.m.
Preregistration required at nga.gov/teacherworkshops
Study paintings by Vermeer and related artists and discover what they most admired in each other's pictures. Team up with colleagues and consider ways you might integrate these images into your classroom teaching. Educators are invited to divide their time between the exhibition, a buffet dinner in the Concourse Café, and meeting new colleagues.

Online Content
An exhibition feature on nga.gov will expand upon select themes from Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting with essays by scholars on topics ranging from wine and parrots to furniture and music. The feature will also present select lectures and programs.

ConnectVermeer.org

More than a thousand connections have been drawn between the genre scenes by the 17 leading artists of this period, including similarities in subject matter, composition, technique, and style. ConnectVermeer.org, developed by the exhibition partners in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD, The Hague), provides more information on the relationships between 17th-century Dutch genre painters and serves as a research tool for students and scholars around the world. Through a series of interactive visualizations, users can discover the strength and likelihood of relationships between the leading artists, the impact of an individual artist's paintings on the work of his contemporaries, as well as how artists adopted, transformed and disguised ideas, from their peers' work, in their own paintings.

Visitor Information

Visitors should enter Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting via the West Building's Sixth Street and Constitution Avenue NW entrance. Visitors are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. Admission is always free. Tours by the Gallery will not be offered and tours by visitors or guides will not be permitted in the exhibition. The Gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and is closed on December 25 and January 1. 

Press Contact:
Isabella Bulkeley, (202) 842-6864 or [email protected]

General Information

The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden are at all times free to the public. They are located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, and are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Gallery is closed on December 25 and January 1. For information call (202) 737-4215 or visit the Gallery's Web site at www.nga.gov. Follow the Gallery on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NationalGalleryofArt, Twitter at www.twitter.com/ngadc, and Instagram at http://instagram.com/ngadc.

Visitors will be asked to present all carried items for inspection upon entering. Checkrooms are free of charge and located at each entrance. Luggage and other oversized bags must be presented at the 4th Street entrances to the East or West Building to permit x-ray screening and must be deposited in the checkrooms at those entrances. For the safety of visitors and the works of art, nothing may be carried into the Gallery on a visitor's back. Any bag or other items that cannot be carried reasonably and safely in some other manner must be left in the checkrooms. Items larger than 17 by 26 inches cannot be accepted by the Gallery or its checkrooms.
 
For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
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National Gallery of Art
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phone: (202) 842-6353
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Anabeth Guthrie
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(202) 842-6804
[email protected]

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Press Kit

Exhibition Press Release

Exhibition Checklist (PDF 202 kb)

Checklist of works by Vermeer in the exhibition (PDF 117 kb)

BP Sponsorship (PDF 86 kb)

Shopping & Dining

Curator Biography

Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr.
Curator of Northern Baroque Paintings

Online Resources

Related Exhibitions

Vermeer's "Woman in Blue Reading a Letter" from the Rijksmuseum
(September 19 – December 1, 2015)

Gabriel Metsu, 1629–1667
(April 10 – July 24, 2011)

Amorous Intrigues and Painterly Refinement: The Art of Frans van Mieris
(February 26 – May 21, 2006)

Gerard ter Borch
(November 7, 2004 – January 30, 2005)

Gerrit Dou (1613-1675): Master Painter in the Age of Rembrandt
(April 16 – August 6, 2000)

Johannes Vermeer's The Art of Painting
(November 24, 1999 – February 8, 2000)

Jan Steen: Painter and Storyteller
(April 28 – August 16, 1996)

Johannes Vermeer
(November 12, 1995 – February 11, 1996)

Press Contact

Isabella Bulkeley
(202) 842-6864
[email protected]

Questions from members of the media may be directed to the Department of Communications at (202) 842-6353 or [email protected]

The public may call (202) 737-4215 or visit www.nga.gov for more information about the National Gallery of Art.

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