Exhibition | Cabinet of Dutch Drawings: The 18th Century

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on March 5, 2023

Idealized Italianate landscape with trees and a port in the distance.

Isaac de Moucheron, Italian Landscape with Trees and a Port / Paysage italien avec arbres et un port, 1738
(Brussels: Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique; photo by J. Geleyns)

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Now on view at the Fondation Custodia / Collection Frits Lugt:

Cabinet of Dutch Drawings: The 18th Century, from the Collection of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium / Cabinet de dessins néerlandais: Le XVIIIe siècle 
Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, 1 February — 23 May 2019
Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede, 2020
Fondation Custodia / Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, 25 February — 14 May 2023

Curated by Stefaan Hautekeete, Robert-Jan te Rijdt, and Charles Dumas

The Fondation Custodia presents a selection of eighty eighteenth-century drawings, assembled by three generations in the city of Breda, in the province of North Brabant. The entire collection was bequeathed to the Belgian state in 1911, and the works were deposited in the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique.

Drawing of a nude woman seated

Bernard Picart, Nu féminin assis, sanguine, 30 × 36 cm (Brussels: Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique).

Many eighteenth-century drawings are preparatory studies for paintings. But drawings were also made for a different purpose, created to be sold as works of art in their own right, albeit on paper. This presupposes a large number of collectors who kept drawings in folders and albums, and who viewed and enjoyed them with fellow enthusiasts or in a family context. The phenomenon became widespread throughout the century and artists capitalised on this market. More than ever, they produced highly finished drawings which were appreciated by collectors of sophisticated taste.

The works in the exhibition provide a better understanding and appreciation of the art of drawing at a time when commerce, science, and culture were experiencing unprecedented development in the Netherlands. At the beginning of the century, historical and mythological scenes were in fashion, but public taste changed and tended to favour representations of an ‘ideal world’, before moving towards greater realism with a production that focused more on landscapes, city views, and interior scenes. Draughtsmen also did not hesitate to take inspiration from the old masters of the 17th century.

book coverThe exhibition is a collaboration with the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels, where it was presented in 2019. It was then shown at the Rijksmuseum Twenthe, in Enschede, in 2020. The exhibition is accompanied by a thoroughly documented catalogue published in French and in Dutch. It is vividly written by a group of specialists led by Stefaan Hautekeete, Curator of Drawings at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, who, together with experts Robert-Jan te Rijdt and Charles Dumas, was responsible for the selection of works.

Cabinet des plus merveilleux dessins: Dessins néerlandais du XVIIIe siècle issus des collections des Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique (Ghent: Snoeck Publishers, 2019), 223 pages, ISBN: 978-9461615176 (French version) / ISBN: 978-8461615169 (Dutch version), €29.

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