A Celebration Of Home: Dutch & Flemish Masterworks

A Celebration Of Home: Dutch & Flemish Masterworks

Tess Wilson
Aug 1, 2011

San Francisco's Legion of Honor is hosting a new exhibit of Dutch and Flemish masterpieces from the 17th Century, and I'm dying to go. It looks to be a glorious collection, full of glowing paintings paying homage to the everyday beauty of the home.

Here I must confess something: I have an extremely shaky grasp on chronology, so when I saw "Dutch & Flemish Masterworks from the 17th Century", I instantly thought, "Flemish Renaissance, Jan Van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, hoorah!". The Flemish Renaissance is one of my very favorite eras in art history, but it happened in the 15th Century- being off by 200 years is really not bad for me.

Not to worry, however, because the works in the Legion of Honor exhibit share many of the qualities I love about the earlier paintings: luminosity, super-saturated color, ethereal light, and an adoring attention to detail. The feeling I get from these painters is that they loved the world. They loved the bark on kindling, the glow of currants, the folds of fabric. They especially seemed to revere the home, capturing the everyday beauty of girls pouring cream, peeling carrots, and writing & reading letters.

The work of the Dutch and Flemish masters, especially Vermeer, has always made me notice those moments when mundane tasks are transformed by the perfect play of light. It's not often that washing dishes can feel beautiful and worthy of being painted, but it does happen, if you watch for it.

Image: Still Life With Glasses And Tobacco, 1633, by Willem Claeszoon Heda, from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, via The Legion of Honor. I have to mention how much this painting reminds me of the work of Laura Letinsky, whose photograph I used to illustrate my "Accidental Parties" post!

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