Nature Observed spotlights the Gallerys collection of Dutch paintings, which for many years have constituted a modestly-sized yet excellent component of the institutions European holdings. Several of the works came to the Gallery
as offerings from historic AGH patrons, among them John Penman, Muriel Bostwick, Margaret Galbreaith, and Ruth McCuaig. Still others were purchases made respectively in the 1960s and 80s through the generosity of the Gallerys Womens Committee and Volunteer Committee (the new name for the Womens Committee in 1977).
The Dutch collection at the AGH splits into a broad balance between paintings from the two most celebrated periods and schools of Dutch art the great Golden Age of the 17th century, and the later 19th century dominated by the Hague school. Both eras of Dutch art exhibit a distinctive naturalist sensibility and attention to everyday subject matter.
In the Dutch Golden Age, commercial wealth and pride in the newly emerging Protestant nation inspired artists to study and reflect the life around them with fresh eyes. Merchants replaced Church and nobility as artistic patrons, shifting the market toward genre (scenes of common life), landscape, and portraiture, and away from the history painting dominating the rest of Europe. Later, artists of the Hague school rediscovered inspiration from the naturalistic heights reached by their 17th-century forebears, combining this with the Realist influence of their own contemporaries in France, the Barbizon school. Nature Observed features several important artists of Hollands Golden Age, such as Jan Verspronck, one of 17th-century Haarlems leading portraitists, and Jacob Willemsz. de Wet and Aert de Gelder, two of Rembrandts close followers. Among the Hague school artists are Anton Mauve (cousin-in-law and early teacher of Vincent van Gogh), Albert Neuhuys, and Willem Roelofs. Supplementing the paintings in the exhibition is a small group of etchings, including works by Rembrandt, one of the master printmakers of all time, and Adriaen van Ostade, the major Dutch etcher of his day next to Rembrandt.