My daughters have a few days off from school this week so we spent yesterday in darling Holland, Michigan! They just finished planting tulip bulbs for next year’s Tulip Festival, prompting me to say “We should plant tulips this year!” Which prompted my girls to answer, “You say that every year!” We visited the whimsical Wizard of Oz sculptures, walked the Window by the Waterfront park, with its view of an authentic windmill, scoped out Hope College, did some Christmas shopping (wooden shoes for everyone!), marveled at how tall Dutch people are, and laughed at ourselves as we tried to pronounce their last names (Huizenga and Beenhouwer, for instance). It was a super fun day and inspired me to dig into some Dutch art!
I’ve written about the biggies several times: Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Vermeer… but throughout the ages, the Netherlands has proven to be a bottomless vat of talented painters. Let’s look at some that don’t have the same star power as say- Pieter Brueghel, but that definitely deserve more attention!
The painting below caught my eye because of the title, then I loved the painting, and finally, I was delighted to see it was painted by a woman!
|Painted by Judith Leyster. I’m thinking of being that boy for Halloween. Thoughts?
I love that the boy and girl are showing some personality, unlike most portraits where the subject isn’t smiling or giving bunny ears to the person beside them, or throwing a peace sign. These kids are mischievous and I happen to love it. Is he about to drop that eel down his sister’s dress? Is she about to yank that cat’s tail? We can only imagine! Some scholars think the painting refers to a Dutch proverb: “To hold an eel by the tail” which means you don’t get to hold onto something just because you have it. Others point out eels were often fed to cats because nobody else would eat them. I don’t know, but I love those rosy cheeks and the cat’s panicked expression.
Pieter de Hooch is a Golden Age big-wig, with paintings in Windsor Castle and the London Gallery, but I’m including him in my post about lesser known Dutch artists because I’ve never heard of him before. And I love the lighting in his paintings. Oh, and his last name is funny.
|Wait no, maybe I’ll be that feathery hat guy instead.
How hard was it to get the light coming in from the door and windows just right? It seems impossible, but Hooch nailed it. Like A Boy and a Girl with a Cat and an Eel, the subjects are having fun, but in a less mischievous manner. If they were in Holland, Michigan they’d be playing Euchre. Amiright, Michiganders?
Finally, I’m highlighting Jan Steen’s Peasants Making Merry in Front of a Tavern. Making merry, indeed! It looks like the beginning of a good, ole-fashion saturnalia and it’s still daylight! Not even baby’s bedtime! Everyone is having a good time. As far as we know, no fights have broken out yet. Maybe they’re celebrating the summer solstice? Or christening that boat that’s about to tip over? Maybe it was baby’s baptism (ha!) or maybe it was just Happy Hour on Friday. Whatever the circumstances, I am all about the detail, the color, and the fun Steen puts in this painting. Apparently, it was on-brand for him to paint slightly chaotic scenes. This resulted in a Dutch saying, “It looks like Jan Steen’s house” when referring to a messy room or house. I can relate! I’m so bringing this saying to the States!
|Augh! Okay, I’ll be the woman dancing. Final answer.
I’m off to plant my tulips now! Lie. Okay, I’m off to clean my Jan Steen-esque house now! Lie. For real, I’m off to binge-watch The Good Place now! Truth.