Prized Possessions: Dutch Masterpieces from National Trust Houses, The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2, until 16th September 2018

A Magus at a Table by Jan Lievens (Leyden 1607 ¿ Amsterdam 1674)

A Magus at a Table, Jan Lievens, 1631-2 © National Trust Images – Angelo Hornak

What a glorious summer but regrettably mine was less so as for the last 8 + weeks have been lost to a persistent, debilitating infection which has taken ever stronger courses of antibiotics to overcome – so fingers crossed victory is in sight.  It has meant that I am very behind in my writing. I should perhaps remember to ‘take the waters’ when next visiting Bath!

ST KATHERINE'S CHURCH, UTRECHT by Pieter Jansz Saenredam (1597-1665), at Upton House, Warwickshire

St Catherine’s Church Utrecht, Pieter Jansz Saenredam, 1636 © National Trust Images

I have visited six of the dozen houses from which this delicious selection of Dutch paintings has been garnered but sadly, so far, not the rest of them. Seeing those pictures that I know again was very much a journey into the past because in some cases it is almost fifty years since I first saw them and yet their beauty and the skill of the artist’s use of paint – for example Ter Borch’s exquisite rendering of a dress (Polesden Lacey) or Cuyp’s Dordrecht sky (Ascott) – has kept them fresh in my mind’s eye.

SELF PORTRAIT WEARING A WHITE FEATHERED BONNET by Rembrandt van Rijn.

Self-Portrait Wearing a White Feathered Bonnet, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1635 © National Trust Images – Chris Titmus

Portraits (people and houses), landscapes, genre scenes, interiors and still-lifes are among the subjects that make up the works on view. In some cases artists collaborated such as in the landscape from Petworth where the painter Hobbema has worked with Adriaen van de Velde who contributed the figural elements to the composition.

The Duet ('Le corset bleu') by Gabriel Metsu (Leyden 1629 ¿ Amsterdam 1669)

The Duet, Gabriel Metsu, 1660-7 © National Trust Images – Christopher Hurst

It is a wonderful journey back into the Dutch 17th century and it makes it easy to understand why ever since they were first painted such works have been so avidly collected and admired, including by  Sir Thomas William Holburne, founder of the Museum.

 

After the Holburne the exhibition will move on to the Mauritshuis in The Hague in October 2018, and then come to Petworth House in West Sussex in January 2019.

 

 

www.holburne.org

‘Must not be Shook’

A Handful of Dust – Georgian Pastels from the Permanent Collection, The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2, until 18th September 2016

Unknown Artist, eighteenth century A Market Woman with Fruit Pastel on paper, 81.3 x 66cm © The Holburne Museum

Unknown Artist, eighteenth century
A Market Woman with Fruit
Pastel on paper, 81.3 x 66cm
© The Holburne Museum

This year the Museum celebrates its centenary a 100 Years Here with a series of exhibitions.  One is quite delightful, featuring rarely seen 18th century portraits in pastel.  Pastel is a mixture of china clay, plaster and pigment which are rolled into sticks. However it is fragile and can deteriorate quite easily. Indeed Thomas Lawrence wrote on the back of one of his pastels ‘to be kept from the Damp &sun/and must not be shook.’ 

 

Be that as it may the effect of pastel when applied to paper is quite luminous especially for portraits as the examples here amply show.  It became a medium adopted by British artists for about a hundred years from the 1730s. Unlike portraits in oils pastels required no time for drying so Bath painters such as William Hoare and a young Thomas Lawrence often used it when depicting short-term visitors to the city.

Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702 – 1789) James Nelthorpe (c. 1718 – 1767), 1738 Pastel on paper, 62 x 50cm © The Holburne Museum

Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702 – 1789)
James Nelthorpe (c. 1718 – 1767), 1738
Pastel on paper, 62 x 50cm
© The Holburne Museum

The technique was revived by Impressionist artists as we will discover in another exhibition at the Holburne.

 

http://www.holburne.org

Arthur Atherley

A New Portrait, The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2

Arthur Atherley (1772-1844) Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) Oil on canvas, 1791 © Lowell Libson Ltd

Arthur Atherley (1772-1844)
Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830)
Oil on canvas, 1791
© Lowell Libson Ltd

It is particularly right and fitting that the Holburne Museum should have been able to raise the funds (£450,000) for this preparatory oil sketch of Arthur Atherley by Thomas Lawrence since the painter lived and worked in Bath between 1780-87.  Some five years later he exhibited a three-quarter length portrait of Atherley, for which this is the sketch, at the Royal Academy.  The sitter was nineteen and the artist twenty-two.  From January 28th the picture will hang in the Museum’s Brownsword Picture Gallery which is devoted to great 18th century British portrait painters, especially those connected with Bath.

The Museum’s Director Jennifer Scott aptly sums it up: ‘This is a fantastic achievement for the Holburne. We are immensely grateful to the Art Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund and to Arts Council England/Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund for their crucial grants and invaluable support for this campaign. The response from our visitors, Friends, patrons and supporters at all levels has been overwhelming, enabling us to raise this large amount in a short time period. It is a reflection of both the quality of the painting itself, and the relevance of an outstanding early Lawrence portrait coming to the South West. We are also very grateful to Lowell Libson Ltd for giving us the opportunity to acquire this painting on a favourable basis. We can now implement an exciting l earning, interpretation and community engagement programme inspired by this compelling portrait – a fresh face for the Museum’s 2016 celebrations marking 100 Years Here.

http://www.holburne.org