An Intimate Universe. Paintings from the Frits Lugt Collection

Paris, Institut Néerlandais, from 1st March to 27 May 2012

1. Hendrick Avercamp
River Landscape in front of the City of Kampen
Oil on Panel - 24 x 39.2 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

Famous for the quantity and quality of its old master drawings, the Frits Lugt collection also holds an ensemble of paintings which are currently being highlighted in an exhibition at the Institut néerlandais, following a campaign of restoration and reframing carried out in 2010 and 2011 ; the site of the Fondation Custodia is also offering an eloquent juxtaposition of its old and new frames, more suitable to the period and the style of the work they contain. This exhibition provides the establishment with the chance as well to present its recent acquisitions (which we will soon discuss), reminding us that the collection is very much alive and continues to grow. Unfortunately, a catalogue was not published for the occasion, but most of the works can be viewed on the Foundation’s internet site. Finally, we might regret the signs in the rooms which do not give the technique nor the dates of the works, though visitors receive a booklet with entries and commentaries.

2. Nicolaes Berchem (1620-1683)
View of Loenen on the Vecht,
with the Castle of Cronenburch
, c.1655-1660
Oil on Canvas - 91.3 x 114.5 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

While Frits Lungt’s thousands of drawings retrace art history and its genres over the centuries, the paintings he assembled reveal a more personal taste, favoring intimate subjects such as portraits and still-lifes as well as landscapes. The presence of some unfamiliar names, even anonymous artists, shows that the collector was attracted more by the quality of a painting rather than the celebrity of the artist. The collection reflects another characteristic : that of exceptions. Frits Lugt preferred rather atypical subjects in his choices : for Hendrick Avercamp, who recorded winters, he selected a summer scene (ill. 1) ; another typically Dutch landscape, the View of Loenen by Nicolaes Berchem (ill. 2), an artist who was mainly fascinated by Italy without ever having gone there, using only his imagination to render its landscapes, notably the waterfall and the Sybil’s temple at Tivoli. Two Flemish still-lifes also stand out : Jan van Kessel the Elder, who observed particularly butterflies, insects and flowers, painted a surprising grouping of shells laid out in a decorative manner forming festoons, masks and rosettes, much as a collector might amuse himself in doing, with some even taking on an anthropomorphous aspect (ill. 3). Lastly, a particularly attractive bouquet of poetic simplicity is by the Antwerp artist, Jacob van Es, better known for his fruit bowls and tables resplendent with food (ill. 4).

3. Jan van Kessel the Elder
Festoons, Masks and Rosettes of Shells, 1656
Oil on Copper - 40 x 56 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

4. Jacob Foppens van Es
An Iris and Three Roses in a Pitcher, c.1630-1640
Oil on Panel - 39 x 29 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

The visit begins with 16th and 17th century Flemish paintings on an entire wall featuring landscapes of all sorts, with hills, ruins, rivers or mountains, in works by Roelant Savary and Lucas van Valckenborch. The Visit to the Share-cropper’s, a subject transformed by the 18th century French school into a sweet eulogy of charity, is a grisaille previously attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder and now given to his son, Jan, nicknamed "Velvet" Bruegel, who imitated his father perhaps in the hopes of selling his painting at a better price (ill. 5). Pieter Stevens illustrates a typically Flemish scene, the kermesse or village fair, in an architectural setting but not actually so since the church, where the crowd is celebrating its consecration, is comparable to Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome ; the artist, who probably never travelled to the Eternal City, was a painter at the court of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague.
Nevertheless, there are some religious subjects, such as Christ’s Baptism by Gillis Mostaert, which has exceptionally kept is original frame, also painted by the artist and where he depicted the theme of water in the Bible, from the crossing of the Red Sea to the eunuch’s baptism (ill. 6).

5. Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625)
The Visit to the Share-cropper’s
Oil on Panel - 28.5 × 42.7 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

6. Gillis Mostaert (1528-1598)
Christ’s Baptism, 1598
Oil on Panel - 51.5 x 66 cm
Frame - 77.5 x 92 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

The exhibition continues with the Dutch Golden Age, the heart of the collection. The hang is carefully thought out : three architecture painters, Isaac van Nickele, Pieter Saenredam and Emanuel de Witte describe the interior of the churches of Saint Bavon in Haarlem and Saint John in Utrecht, all in a white sobriety.
Three other panels hang side by side interpreting different light effects in a quiet and intimate universe : Esaias Boursse, some of whose works are attributed to Pieter De Hooch and who often illustrated feminine activities, shows an elderly woman leaning over her sewing, lit by a ray which plays on the wall tiles, in a beautiful decorative effect (ill. 7). Jacob Vrel depicts a woman at her window calling to an imaginary girl through the glass. Finally, a panel attributed to Pieter Codde represents an artist and an art lover conversing in a studio. Among the portraits presented here, of note is one of an elegant young woman by Jan de Bray, a Haarlem painter (ill. 8) : the model stands out against the dark background and displays an open palm, no doubt to show us the ring on her finger ; her portrait probably had a companion piece representing her husband. Two other portraits by Jan de Bray have just recently joined the collection (see news item of 3/4/12).

7. Esaias Boursse
An Elderly Woman Sewing
Oil on Panel - 28.5 x 22.3 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

8. Jan de Bray (c.1627-1697)
Portrait of a Young Woman, 1667
Oil on Canvas - 77.3 x 63 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

Visitors then discover the indispensable Jan Steen and his Dovecote which seems to be a reference to the Dutch expression "keep the pigeons in the attic" meaning "run a brothel". Jan van Goyen is famous for his almost monochromatic winter landscapes, in which the cold blueish gray contrasts with the setting sun of an Italianate mountain landscape by Karel Dujardin. A rare landscape by Jan Lievens presents three alders in a very free treatment ; it was probably produced during the artist’s stay in Antwerp (ill. 9).
The late 17th century makes a timid appearance with only a few works, but the 2011 acquisition of a late portrait by Nicolas Maes helps to fill this gap : a young girl with golden curls poses in an affected manner, dresed in white with a refined pink drapery, next to a fawn ; the model is gazing elsewhere while the animal stares out at the viewer as it pulls at the branch of a shrub (ill. 10).

9. Jan Lievens
Landscape with Three Alders
Oil on Panel - 28 x 41.3 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

10. Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693)
Portrait of a Young Girl with a Fawn
Oil on Canvas - 58 x 49 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

Frits Lugt did not limit his choices to only Dutch or Flemish art ; the exhibition thus presents a still life with shells and coral by Jacques Linard, grapes by Largillierre, an eternal reference to Zeuxis, and also a superb view of the basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice by Guardi (ill. 11).
Known as the "Age of Silver", the 18th century is considered as a period of decline in the Netherlands and the Frits Lugt works from this period had never been displayed. We can now admire the decorative and rococo painting of Jacob de Wit in Diana and her Companions, a modello for the ceiling of an Amsterdam residence (ill. 12), and also, in a more North-European vein, the works of Jan ten Compe who represented many views of The Hague and Cleves.

11. Francesco Guardi
The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore Seen from the Giudecca
Oil on Canvas - 48 x 66.5 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

12. Jacob de Wit (1695-1754)
Diana and her Companions Returning from a Hunt (?), 1731
Oil on Canvas- 49.5 x 62.8 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, 2012

In a richer and more varied selection, the 19th century is represented here by the Realist search of The Hague School, with notably Willem Maris and Jozef Israëls. We then travel from the banks of the Seine, endlessly observed by Jongkind, to the sunny views of Venice offered by Bonington. In another example, Tissot offers us a brilliant study of his mistress, Kathleen Newton, with just a few brush strokes.
The exhibition also enables visitors to enjoy the works which will join the collection in the future, with various "promised gifts" such as this portrait of sweet children and innocent lambs by Pieter Gerardus van Os, better known for his landscapes, providing a beautiful example of Dutch Romantic painting, also close to the German art of Philipp Otto Runger. Ger Luijten is to donate Waterloo Bridge by Willem Witsen, in "an atmosphere of grave and somber beauty" (ill. 13). Acquired in 2011, A Young Woman in Black Hose by George Hendrik Breitner seduces the viewer by the freedom of the model’s pose and the artist’s touch (ill. 14).

13. Willem Witsen (1860-1923)
Waterloo Bridge in London, c.1888-1891
Oil on Panel - 31.8 x 38.2 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

14. George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923)
A Young Woman in Black Hose
Oil on Panel - 20.3 x 30.5 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

The visit ends with a look at sixty oil studies on paper by 19th century Dutch, Danish and French artists, bequeathed in 2010 by Carlos van Hasselt, former director of the Fondation Custodia (we will return to this bequest at length in a future article) ; this ensemble was rounded out over the past few years by several other acquisitions. Presented in a close-knit hang, they produce a remarkable overall effect.

15. Louis Léopold Robert (1794-1835)
View of Napoli with the Mount Vesuvius
Board mounted on Canvas - 18.5 x 28.5 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

16. Achille-Etna Michallon (1796-1822)
Wiew of the Abbey at Subiaco, 1818
Paper mounted on Canvas - 43.2 x 29.2 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

Thus we can see Parisian rooftops submerged by the foliage of the trees in a study by Théophile-Narcisse Chauvel, while a bluish Vesuvius appears in an ethereal atmosphere depicted by Louis Léopold Robert (ill. 15). In another example, this time by Michallon, a view of the abbey at Subiaco was acquired in 2010 (ill. 16) ; this marvellous study dates from a stay in Italy between 1818 and 1821. Finally, Isabey offers us a view of the fort at Bertheaum as well as a colored illustration of the souk in Algiers where he traveled in 1830.

17. Janus LaCour (1837-1909)
Landscape of Olive Trees near Tivoli, 1869
Paper mounted on Canvas - 37.7 x 60.6 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

18. Frederik Sødring (1809-1862)
The Abbey at Alpirsbach near Freudenstadt (Black-Forest)
Canvas mounted on Board - 40.5 x 57.2 cm
Photo : Fondation Custodia,
Frits Lugt Collection, Paris, 2012

Among the Danish artists, whose studies round out an already extensive ensemble of drawings in the holdings here, Carlos van Hasselt bequeathed notably the green, gray and blue hues of the sky and the sea interpreted by Vilhelm Kyhn, along with the luminous pinks of the Roman countryside observed by Johan Thomas Lundbye. Other purchases in 2011 and 2012 joined these studies, such as the olive trees at Tivoli by Janus LaCour who does a magnificent job of depicting the summer heat (ill. 17). Frederik Sodring, in another example, paints architectural motifs such as the abbey at Alpirsbach (ill. 18), in a monochromatic exercice of red and brown, a symphony of bricks, wood and stones.

Curators and authors : Ger Luijten, director of the Fondation Custodia Rhea Sylvia Blok, curator, Hans Buijs, curator, Cécile Tainturier, curator, Sarah Van Ooteghem, assistant curator.

Visitor information : Institut Néerlandais, 121 rue de Lille, 75007 Paris. Tel : +33 (0)1 53 5912 40. Open every day except Monday, from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.. Admission : 6€ (reduced : 4€).

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Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, mercredi 4 avril 2012

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