“Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael”

The National Gallery of Art has a beautiful little show called Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638).  I visited yesterday after lunch at 701 Restaurant, which is only a couple of blocks away.

Wtewael, whose work was previously unknown to me, was a  merchant and town councillor in Utrecht, as well as a painter.  There’s a lush sensuality to much of his work.  Some of his paintings pushed the limits, and were not publicly displayed during his lifetime.  One of them, in fact, was kept from public view until the 1980s, and several of them were mutilated by their owners by “overpainting to hide erotic anatomical details.”

The following are among the 49 works on display in the exhibit:

The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis

The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis

Perseus and Andromeda

Perseus and Andromeda

Kitchen Scene with the Parable of the Great Supper

Kitchen Scene with the Parable of the Great Supper

The Golden Age

The Golden Age

Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan

Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan

The Apulian Shepherd

The Apulian Shepherd

The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian

The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian

The exhibition runs through 4 October 2015.  I’m be returning to this one a couple more times while it’s in Washington.


From the NGA’s notes:   “Born and raised in Utrecht, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, Wtewael spent four years in Italy and France early in his career.  During these study years he embraced the popular international style known as mannerism, characterized by extreme refinement, artifice, and elegant distortion.  Throughout his career, Wtewael remained one of the leading proponents of this style, even as most early seventeenth-century Dutch artists shifted to a more naturalistic manner of painting.  Wtewael’s inventive compositions, teeming with twisting, choreographed figures and saturated with pastels and acidic colors, retained their appeal for his patrons. Yet his strong adherence to a mannerist style would also lead to the eventual decline of his reputation.”

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