It is said that the very great Titian (1488/90-1576) maintained that a good painter only needed the colours black, white and red.
Looking at this brilliant portrait by Frans Hals (1582/83-1666) one might easily agree, although the red is only present mixed with ochres in the face of the sitter.
Getting back to Titian, one would think Isack van Ostade (1621-1649; brother to the more famous Adriaen van Ostade) wasn’t a good painter, except if you replace black and white with dark and light. The red is centred very much in the action in front of the tavern.
An absolute highlight of the Frick’s Dutch paintings is of course this majestic self-portrait by Rembrandt (1606-1669), one of the must-sees of the exhibition. It is again the dark, light and red which are important.
The light highlights the face of the painter against the dark background, while the red sash gives a strong accent to the rest of the figure.
There is also a portrait by a follower or student of Rembrandt’s. In fact it is quite a rembrandtesque painting and quite a good one for that. One might also call it titianesque with black being the main pigment of the painting, with smaller white accents and only some red in the lips of the sitter.
In this small work by Philips Wouwerman (1619-1668) the red is more spread over the group of soldiers, while there are some strong white accents in the horses. As a whole it is a virtuoso composition with different structures, tones and shapes.
According to the catalogue Frick purchased this painting by Carel van der Pluym (1625-1672) believing it was a Rembrandt, and so paying far too much money for it. Van der Pluym was a student of Rembrandt’s but clearly not one of his best. The whole composition looks like a hotchpotch of different parts. The face looks as if it is added to a puppet, the difference in tone of the hands is unexplainable and the red of the dress is boring and amateurish.
This famous painting by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) is quite a different story and it is the other absolute highlight (and even more than that as far as i am concerned) of the exhibition. The difference with Van der Pluym’s gibberish couldn’t be greater.
Look at that brilliant red with its different shades of the soldier’s coat, returning in the decorations on his black hat, just in front of the bright, white light of the open window and opposed to the lively character of the smiling lady. What an absolute wonder it is, whether you look at it as a three-dimensional scene or as a flat abstract composition.
In this work by Aelbert Cuyp (1620-1691) the red is in the cow at the left, the black is in the standing cow and the white is in the shepherd’s shirt, the rest is just Cuyp.
The monumental painting by Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29-1682) has some of the usual ingredients of his invented landscapes: an old oak tree, a winding path, something with water, more trees, a deep horizon and a dramatic sky. Still you may have the idea that the Mauritshuis’ own, much smaller View of Haarlem is a far more brilliant work.
The figures in the landscape – the noblemen (or nobleman and his servant), the two horses, the huntsman and his dog and the fisherman – are said to be painted by Wouwerman. Indeed the red in the cloak of the figure on the left and the red in the fisherman’s cap give some life to the whole composition. The same can be said about the red-coated figure in the foreground of the landscape by Meindert Hobbema (1638-1709), as usual more anecdotal, with a weaker perspective and with paler tones than in his teacher Ruisdael’s works.
Concluding: the three most impressive paintings are by the usual suspects Hals, Rembrandt and Vermeer, nice surprises are the small work by Wouwerman and the portrait by the Rembrandt follower/student, the absolute lowest point is the work by Van der Pluym, while the Ruisdael is not the most brilliant one you could dream of by that master.
Now that you’ve come here, you might as well subscribe to Villa Next Door (top right of the page)!
(Right click to enlarge pictures)
(All links open in new tabs)
© Villa Next Door 2022
Contents of all photographs courtesy to the Frick Collection, New York and to the Mauritshuis, Den Haag
VILLA NEXT DOOR IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ADVERTISING ON THIS PAGE!!