Johannes Vermeer, Dutch, 1632-1675, Woman Writing a Letter, With Her Maid, c. 1670-1671, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
Contingent upon the powers that agree or not agree on a government shutdown, it was reported last night that museums will remain open until Monday enabling the National Gallery of Art to present a major show for one more weekend.
At the Gallery guests will find others standing in a long (but fast moving) line to see a probable once-in-a-lifetime exhibition which is well worth the short (it may not look it) wait. Private collectors and 33 museums from around the world loaned works for the show.
Segregated in galleries by theme, motif, and composition, paintings were generally completed over 30 years (mid 1650s to about 1680). They depict everyday life in almost 70 different scenes, including ten by Vermeer, some of which have not been seen in the U.S. since their last presentation 22 years ago at the National Gallery. (Then, during the Vermeer exhibition of 1995-1996, the Gallery suffered two government shutdowns but private donors came to the rescue, permitting the Vermeer exhibit to be open while the rest of the National Gallery remained closed.)
Gabriel Metsu, Dutch, 1629-1667, Woman Writing a Letter, c. 1662-1664, The Leiden Collection, New York
Vermeer painted painstakingly but his work was generally unknown during his lifetime outside of Delft where he lived with his wife and ten (or eleven; depending upon what you read) children. (Four other children died as infants.)
Perhaps because of his large family and obligations as an innkeeper, art dealer, and his meticulous attention to his art, Vermeer's output was small (only 34 or 35, depending upon your sources) limiting dissemination to the public to purchase and support the artist. His wife, Catharina Boines, attributed her husband's death to financial pressures. One day he was well, and the next day, not so well, she wrote. Whatever he was, his family was left in heavy debt.
About two centuries after his death, Vermeer was "discovered" by a German museum director.
This information and much more is found in the 320 paged catalog with 180 color illustrations, available in the National Gallery's shops.
Gerrit Dou, Dutch, 1613-1675, The Dropsical Woman, 1663, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Do you like the adjective? The label copy notes the physician examines a vial of urine to try to determine what ails m'lady while the catalog says doctors visiting female patients in the second half of the 17th century "enjoyed considerable popularity." A chapter in the catalog, "Heartache," includes other works of doctors' visits to women: The Doctor's Visit (Steen and one by the same title by van Mieris), The Swoon (van Mieris), and The Doctor (Dou). You must see to believe!
Besides Vermeer, the other artists represented are Gerard ter Borch, Gerrit Dou, Pieter de Hooch, Gabriel Metsu, Frans van Mieris, Caspar Netscher, Jan Steen, Cornelis Bisshis, Samuel van Hoogstraten, Nicolaes Maes, Cornelis de Man, Eglon van der Neer, and Jacob Ochtervelt, all from the Netherlands, all from the Golden Age of Art.
For some reason the show's paintings which were of most interest to me and pictured here, show the subjects looking to their rights which is the source of much of the light (the viewer's left). Sometimes the subjects greet guests face on. Why does the light never come from the right? Many of those hanging on the walls feature women in similar constructions. Please see what you think and write soon.
At the opening of the exhibition, His Excellency Henne Schuwer, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United States, praises the warm relationship between his nation and the U.S. To his right is Earl A. Powell, III, the director of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and on Ambassador Schuwer's left are Mary Streett of BP, the major sponsor of the Vermeer show, and Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., curator of Northern Baroque paintings for the National Gallery of Art/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The exhibition was curated by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of Northern Baroque paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington; Dr. Adriaan Waiboer, head of collections and research, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; and Blaise Ducos, curator of Dutch and Flemish paintings, Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Before the presentation came to the National Gallery of Art, it opened last year at the Louvre, followed by exhibition at the National Gallery of Ireland.
On the first page of the catalog, BP, the major sponsor, commends the National Gallery: "What makes the National Gallery such a special place is not only its extraordinary collection but the fact that its offerings may be viewed free of charge."
What: Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry
When: The National Gallery of Art is open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sunday. The exhibition closes Sunday, January 21, 2018.
Where: West Building, the National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.
Admission charge: Never an admission charge at the National Gallery of Art.
Metro stations for the National Gallery of Art:
Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza
For more information: 202-737-4215