Since I’m watching a documentary on Baroque art, it seems apropos to share with you an exhibit on Northern Baroque Art that I was able to see in Cincinnati. We decided to visit their art museum on our recent August trip since we hadn’t been before. “Northern Baroque Splendor” was on visitation from the Prince of Leichtenstein’s Museum in Vienna (what a fabulous name!) and represents one of the finest collections in the world, with over 60 paintings of Dutch and Flemish art. We were privileged to see it as it is on display in only 2 locations in the US.
From portraits to landscape, still life to hunting scenes, small to grandiose – there was something for everyone. It was one of the most beautiful assemblages of paintings that I’ve ever seen. And we were allowed to take pictures too! You will appreciate my heroic restraint when I tell you I won’t show you pictures of all 60. My pics don’t do them justice, but this is to whet your appetite to maybe search for the paintings online.
If I absolutely had to choose a favorite from the exhibit, it would be these two paintings by Daniel Seghers and Cornelis Schut.
This one is “Lamentation of Christ in a Cartouche with Flowers”. Schut painted the background and Seghers painted the floral wreaths. And they were amazing – the flowers looked fresh and three-dimensional and they radiated light. One of the aspects I love from this style of painting is how the majority of the painting is very dark and difficult to see and then there’s this radiant burst of color and light that draws your eye in and makes you want to see what the light illuminates.
It’s companion piece is “The Holy Family Surrounded by a Garland of Roses” Again, the florals steal the show. They were just exquisite!
No collection would be complete without a still life and there were many fascinating ones on exhibit. I love still life paintings for their collage-like look. It’s an assemblage of related or disparate images usually collected around a central floral element. In contrast to the above paintings where I loved the florals, I am fascinated by still life because of what’s lurking around the flowers. This painting by Jacob Marrell is called “Flowers in a Vase, with a Kingfisher and a Lizard” from 1634. Don’t you just love the creative titles?
It’s believed that this painting was executed as an add for investing in the burgeoning tulip trade. He paints the tulips dizzingly – just look how the light hits the florals and makes them glow! But I could spend hours looking at what’s going on in the fringes. There’s the kingfisher at the bottom, keeping company with a lizard (or thinking about it for lunch!) and a butterfly (which looks like the lizard is contemplating for lunch). Aside from being a lesson in the food chain, just this corner is a masterpiece of art.
And at the top, there’s little twigs and whispy blooms, more butterflies, and dainty spiderwebs and spiders! The next two paintings are both by Otto Marseus van Schrieck who also specialized in still life paintings. While most are arranged or formal compositions, van Schrieck’s work takes its inspiration from the natural world and paints scenes as you might find them in the forest, not at a dinner table.
I don’t even have words for how amazingly beautiful these were. They were smaller paintings and filled with incredible detail. Again, note the skilled use of light illuminating the corners of the painting. This one has a snake about to strike in the lower left corner. I think the foliage in the bottom corner is the star of the show – just look how light plays with the color and texture. He daubed his painting with bits of leaves or paper to get the texture.
In the second painting, the snake is a bit hard to miss as it takes central focus at the base of the tree. The thistle growing up the tree trunk was a masterpiece in itself. The pictures don’t show the detailing in the mossy background, but the mottled colors were beautiful. . The most fascinating thing I learned from reading the signs for each was that van Schrieck achieved the lifelike look of his butterflies by applying real butterfly wings to his painting. He pressed them in a mixture of oil, paint, and gum and incorporated them into the canvas. This is sheer genius and perhaps one of the earliest “mixed-media” paintings which is so in vogue today.
Well, looking at those last two paintings, I’d have to say they’re my favorites too! I hope that you enjoyed a look at some Baroque art and that you might be inspired to peruse them further online or visit your nearest art museum!
Blessings to you,