I will be joining the Department of History of Art and Architecture of Harvard University as the Erasmus Lecturer on History and Civilizations of the Netherlands and Flanders for Spring 2019 (January-May: one lecture course and three public lectures). Title of lecture course: “Making Art in Amsterdam, c. 1645-1675; from Rembrandt and his Competitors to the Lower Tiers of the Art Market”
I will present four public lectures: one at the Museum of Fine Arts (April 7) and three at the Harvard Art Museums (Mentschel Hall) on February 22, March 1 and March 8. See below.
Art and Competition in the Dutch Golden Age: Erasmus Lectures on the History and Civilization of the Netherlands and Flanders
Dates: February 22, March 1, and March 8, 2019
Location: Menschel Hall, Harvard Art Museums
Part 1 (February 22): “‘Here is the stock exchange and the money, and the love of art’: On the Value of History Paintings in Rembrandt’s Amsterdam”
In the 17th century, Amsterdam’s booming art market saw explosive growth and diversification in the kinds of paintings that were produced—in terms of subject matter, format, style, and technique—and in the ways these works were marketed. Artists’ reputations and the prices each painter could ask also began to diverge dramatically. This lecture will focus on Rembrandt, who occupied an exceptional place among his peers in Amsterdam’s art scene. Eric Jan Sluijter will demonstrate how, in this environment, Rembrandt and his fellow history painters (who produced depictions of biblical, mythological, and other historical and literary scenes) acquired fame and handled the financial value of their work.
Part 2 (March 1): “Artistic Competition and Creative Imitation: Gerard ter Borch, Frans van Mieris, Jan Steen, Gerrit Dou, Gabriel Metsu, and JohannesVermeer”
Beginning in about the mid-17th century, the most ambitious and talented Dutch painters turned to depicting scenes of beautifully dressed young women and men in luxurious interiors. These works share striking similarities in subject matter and composition, which suggests that these artists knew each other’s work well. Eric Jan Sluijter’s lecture will demonstrate that these painters, with a small group of discerning connoisseurs in mind, achieved their breathtaking level of quality by keeping a close eye on each other’s innovations and by competing with one another through creative imitation.
Part 3 (March 8): “Rivals in Rendering Horror: Rembrandt, Rubens and Tragedy”
In several spectacular paintings of the 1630s, Rembrandt strove to surpass Peter Paul Rubens in the rendering of violence and horror. His efforts reached a peak with his monumental Blinding of Samson (1636). He painted this work in artistic rivalry with Rubens’s Prometheus Bound (1618), while also drawing upon works by Caravaggio and Jusepe de Ribera that were then in the possession of Amsterdam collectors. Eric Jan Sluijter’s lecture will examine the important role of artistic competition and will consider both Rembrandt’s and Rubens’s rivalry with the Senecan tragedies that were performed on the stages of Amsterdam and Antwerp, particularly in their depiction of terrifying occurrences, violent passions, and gruesome deeds.