03 January 2014

The Dutch Visit the Frick

"Girl with a Pearl Earring" Johannes Vermeer (ca. 1665)

Last week I made a second visit to the Frick Collection to see my favourite exhibit of 2013. “Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis” is a small collection of 15 works from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Netherlands. It’s a fantastic exhibit that proved to be just as enthralling on a second viewing.

The show offers some of the best examples of the Dutch Golden Age of painting including two Frans Hals portraits; four Rembrandts, one of which, the biblical “Susanna” (1636), captures the terrifying moment when she realizes she’s being watched; Pieter Claesz’ “Vanitas Still Life” (1630) complete with human skull; and Gerard ter Borch’s delightful “Woman Writing a Letter” (ca. 1655).

The star of the show though hangs alone in her own room at the Frick—“Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer (ca. 1665). Sometimes paintings that are so familiar from prints and reproductions disappoint when finally seen in person but this is not the case with the Girl. Her gaze draws you in and like the Mona Lisa, her eyes appear to follow you around the room. From the yellow and blue of her robe and turban to that symbolic large pearl, she is absolutely lovely and utterly unforgettable.

"The Goldfinch" Carl Fabritius (1654)

While I loved seeing the Girl, my favourite painting in the exhibit was Carl Fabritius’ exquisite “The Goldfinch” (1654). The tiny work that shows a beautiful little bird tied to his feed box with a slight chain was done as a trompe-l'oeil, made to trick viewers into thinking they were looking at a live bird. The little goldfinch’s soft down combined with the play of light and shadows on the canvas do indeed give him a lifelike appearance. It’s a thoroughly delightful painting, one that I could look at everyday.

The exhibit is at the Frick through January 19, 2014. I plan on seeing it one last time before it leaves and suggests everyone else do the same. For more info, go here.

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