Rotterdam's historic Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen holds one of the finest collections of Netherlandish master drawings. In a special presentation of this collection at the National Gallery of Art
, Washington, some 100 works explore the many functions of drawings, from preparatory studies for paintings and designs for prints to finished works of art. On view from October 8, 2017, through January 7, 2018, Bosch to Bloemaert: Early Netherlandish Drawings from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam includes landscapes, portraits, biblical scenes, and historical and mythological scenes that will be exhibited in the United States only in Washington.
"This exhibition presents a stunning selection of Netherlandish drawings," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington. "The National Gallery of Art has a nearly 50-year tradition of presenting drawing exhibitions that focus on specific treasures from other collections around the world, and we are delighted to be able to introduce our visitors to this selection of rare, innovative, and distinctive sheets from this distinguished Rotterdam institution. As the final venue for the exhibition's tour, we are delighted to be the only U.S. museum presenting these works to our millions of visitors in the nation's capital."
While the exhibition features the remarkable skill and virtuosity of masters such as Hieronymus Bosch, Abraham Bloemaert, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and Hendrick Goltzius, several key examples also reveal the variety of functions served by drawings across the 15th through 17th centuries.
In the 15th-century artist's workshop, meticulous studies recorded compositions and motifs for reuse in later works. Several drawings on view likely served this purpose, including a newly discovered sheet of the crucifixion dating from around 1440 to 1450, from the workshop of Jan van Eyck (c. 13901441). A selection of 16th-century drawings includes a number of preliminary studies, such as a rare complete set of preparatory drawings for a print series by Hans Bol (15341593). Two very different figure studies for a painting by Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651) offer a glimpse into artistic practices in the early 17th century.
The exhibition also traces the major artistic developments of the time. Among the most important was the emergence of landscape as a genre, a movement marked in the exhibition by several panoramic mountain views by the great master Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525/15301569). Studies of local and faraway scenes by later artists include Flooded Valley with Trees by Pieter's son, Jan Breughel (15681625), and Landscape with Horsemen out Hawking, by Joos de Momper (15641635).
This period reflects a shift in attitudes toward drawings themselves, as both artists and collectors began to view them as autonomous works of art. The Owl's Nest (c. 1505/1515) by Hieronymus Bosch (c. 14501516) is a spectacular early example of this trend. Decades later, the innovative painter and printmaker Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) made independent drawings in a variety of media. The exhibition includes 14 works by Goltzius, drawings that range from tiny metalpoint portraits to elaborate pen studies. His work also exemplifies the increasingly international character of Netherlandish art, as Goltzius absorbed the influence of the classical and Renaissance works he saw in Italy and adapted the sophisticated style his counterparts brought home from the imperial court in Prague.
The exhibition is curated by Albert J. Elen, senior curator of drawings and prints, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Stacey Sell, associate curator, department of old master drawings, National Gallery of Art, Washington, is the coordinating curator for the presentation in Washington.