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  • Explore Drawings by Dutch Masters at Worcester Art Museum

    WORCESTER, MASS., November 28, 2000 - Stroll along the Italian countryside, walk among ancient Roman and medieval ruins, or relax in a farmer's humble surroundings as you explore the world of Dutch masters in this exhibition of 40 drawings from the collection of Sheldon and Leena Peck. On view at the Worcester Art Museum from December 16, 2000 - February 25, 2001, Fresh Woods and Pastures New: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape Drawings offers a rare chance to see works from a distinguished private collection.

    The 17th century was a golden age for Dutch culture, resulting in an explosion of works of art. Draftsmen in Holland depicted a variety of subjects in their work, and landscape was among them. By illustrating the farms, villages, woods and dikes around them, renowned artists such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan van Lievens, and Jacob van Ruisdael reflected pride in their homeland.

    Some of the works are careful preparatory studies for paintings. Others are finished products, ends in themselves that were sold as such. The phenomenon of drawing as a finished product resulted in the creation of huge volumes of drawings in the 17th century. This exhibition also offers the opportunity to study the development of style during this period. We can see such development over the decades in the work of a single artist, and we can compare works from early in the century to those executed at its end.

    The phenomenon of the drawing as a finished product is especially apparent in the Peck collection, and this selection provides an excellent introduction to 17th-century Dutch art. We see in this collection the great truth about drawings: that the second-rank painter can make brilliant, imaginative drawings. There is an immediacy about this medium, so personal and spontaneous, that makes it a great equalizer among artists.

    Another unique aspect of 17th-century Dutch drawings is the blurring of the boun-daries between drawings, prints, and paintings. The oil sketch, another example of blurring the media and the concept of "finish," is another specialty of Rembrandt and the Dutch.

    The title of the exhibition and its catalogue, "Fresh Woods and Pastures New," is taken from the last line of Milton's great pastoral poem, "Lycidas." The vision of Italy as a timeless, picturesque world of ease and beauty is expressed in several of the drawings in this exhibition. Part of the charm of Italy for Dutch visitors was the omnipresence of ancient ruins, with daily life enduring among them. Dutch artists were also enchanted with their own domestic ruins, although they were more recent. Added to their interest in the picturesque and in documenting visible works, was a pride in their own country's history, which was so newly independent.

    Dutch art is truly a part of everyday life - examining the world around us, and discovering that the world is something worth studying, recording, and celebrating. Artists recorded streets, pigeons, huts, and backyards of farms. The Netherlands was a new country, like America, discovering itself and in fact making itself.

    Some of the artists whose works are included specialized in landscapes, while others made maps and scientific illustrations. The line between artist and scientist were not clearly defined at that time. Dutch drawings of this period also include topographical documentation of exotic and domestic sites, with treatments that were both dramatic and intimate. The Peck collection is testimony to the artist's ability to take the everyday world and reveal its beauty; a lesson for which later centuries remain grateful.

    Other lessons that Dutch art and society offers us are its openness to all religions, its interest in science, the end of the medieval guild and the beginning of modern industrial practice, its fascination with new cities and old ruins, and its faith in the future as well as its interest in the past.

    Dutch drawings are especially popular with today's collectors. At this time, there are more than 3,000 works in American public and private collections. This affinity may stem from similarities between 17th-century Dutch and 21st-century American society: republican, urban, mercantile, middle class, and stable. In addition, Dutch art resonates in the American psyche, and it is this spirit that infuses the Peck collection and charms us every time we see it.

    Fresh Woods and Pastures New: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape Drawings is organized by the Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Funding is provided by BHR Life Companies.

    Related events include "A Fresh Look at Old Master Drawings" on Saturday, January 20, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This international symposium brings together scholars of 17th-century Dutch drawings to explore several topics, including connoisseurship and issues of authenticity, the influence of Italy in Netherlandish landscape drawing, and the history of paper in the Low Countries. Sponsored by Christies, the symposium is free of charge and open to the public.

    Museum Background

    Opened to the public in 1898, the Worcester Art Museum is the second largest art museum in New England. Its exceptional 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints and drawings is displayed in 36 galleries and spans 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from Egyptian antiquities and Roman mosaics to Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Throughout its first century, the Worcester Art Museum proved itself a pioneer: the first American museum to purchase work by Claude Monet (1910) and Paul Gauguin (1921); the first museum to bring a medieval building to America (1927); a sponsor of the first major excavation at Antioch, one of the four great cities of ancient Rome (1932); the first museum to create an Art All-State program for high school artists (1987); the originator of the first exhibition of Dutch master Judith Leyster (1993); and the first museum to focus its contemporary art programs on art of the last 10 years (1998). The Museum's hours are: Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-5pm, and Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission: FREE for members; Non-members: $8 Adults; $6 Seniors and full-time college students with current ID; FREE for youth 17 and under; FREE for everyone Saturday mornings 10am-noon sponsored by The TJX Companies and Massachusetts Electric Company. For more information, call (508) 799-4406 or visit the Museum at 55 Salisbury Street in Worcester.

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