- Identification and Creation
Level 3, Room 3600, University Research Gallery
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- Physical Descriptions
- Brown ink, brown and gray wash, pink and green transparent watercolor and white opaque watercolor over black chalk on cream antique laid paper, framing line in brown ink
- 16.1 x 21.4 cm (6 5/16 x 8 7/16 in.)
- Inscriptions and Marks
- inscription: lower left, brown ink: ab. Bloemaert
- watermark: none
- [Probably sold, C. G. Boerner, Leipzig, 28 November 1912, lot 82.] Private collector, France. [Bernard Houthakker Gallery, Amsterdam] sold; to Maida and George Abrams, Boston, 1970 (without their mark, L. 3306); The Maida and George Abrams Collection, 1999.130.
- Published Text
- Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums
- William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson
- Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016)
Catalogue entry no. 8 by William W. Robinson:
Abraham Bloemaert was one of the first artists in the northern Netherlands to draw the local landscape from life.2 As early as around 1584–86, he sketched cottages, sheds, trees, and cattle observed in the countryside around Utrecht.3 These two studies of deteriorating farmhouses date from about 1595–1605 and belong to an extensive group of farm landscapes, in which the artist delighted in portraying the rustic buildings’ overgrown walls, crumbling masonry, rotting planks, dwindling thatch, and exposed timbers.4 Although informally composed, many of these landscapes, including the Harvard example, are worked up with delicate, pale, transparent watercolors and, in some instances, white opaque watercolor. In Het Schilderboeck (The Painter’s Book, 1604), Karel van Mander singled out the attractive technique of these studies and underscored their remarkable naturalism. Bloemaert’s landscape paintings, he wrote, incorporate “well-observed and droll peasant houses, peasants’ implements, trees, and countryside—things which are to be seen in great variety round about Utrecht and which are drawn by him; for he does a great deal after life and he has a clever manner of drawing and penmanship to which he sometimes adds some watercolors so that it looks particularly good.”5
The numerous prints after Bloemaert’s drawings of landscapes with tumbledown cottages attest to the ongoing popularity, long after Van Mander’s enthusiastic tribute, of his handling of this imagery.6 For example, in 1620 Claes Jansz. Visscher issued a suite of twenty-five etchings of farms, all of which he had copied from previously published prints after Bloemaert’s design.7 Visscher also pirated the composition of the title print from an earlier series, but provided a new text. Instead of ten lines of Latin verse praising the countryman’s life, Visscher’s Dutch title simply touts the designer’s name and the lifelike character of the scenery: Verscheijden aerdige Lanthuijsen nae tleven Gekonterfeyt deur ABloemaert (“Various characteristic country houses portrayed from life by A Bloemaert”).8
Bloemaert used both sides of the Harvard sheet for studies of dilapidated farm buildings. Whether they represent two separate houses or different views of the same farmstead is not clear.9 The structure shown as an overgrown ruin on the verso appears in an earlier drawing by the artist with its walls and roofs comparatively intact.10
In 1637, more than thirty years after he executed the study on the recto of the sheet, Bloemaert incorporated much of it into the composition of a painting, Farmyard with the Prodigal Son (Fig. 1).11 The battered facade and derelict walls viewed up close in the drawing occupy the middle ground of the picture, enclosing the muddy farmyard where the prodigal son, reduced to the condition of a swineherd, kneels beside the pigs’ trough and resolves to return to his father’s house (Luke 15:15–19). In the painting, Bloemaert widened the house at the left, revised its roofline and fenestration, and lowered the trough to accommodate the animals. He reproduced the wooden structure and deteriorating masonry at the right with fewer changes, although the composition of the picture required a modest extension of the wall.
Bloemaert probably executed another drawing of the motif recorded on the recto of the Harvard sheet, but from a standpoint 90 degrees to the left. This putative study does not survive, but evidently provided the point of departure for a finished drawing dated 1650, the year before the artist’s death and some five decades after he presumably sketched the site.12 In the latter work, the foreshortened facade of the farmhouse recedes diagonally into the pictorial space at the left, and the walls at the right in the Harvard drawing run parallel to the picture plane across the middle ground. Bloemaert completed the composition of the finished drawing by adding an array of agricultural implements and figures of working and relaxing peasants in the foreground.
1 (This note refers to the inscription under “Inscriptions and Marks.”) In Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, Rijksprentenkabinet; Vienna: Albertina; New York: Pierpont Morgan Library; Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, 1991), cat. 21, p. 60, I wrote that this inscription was in the same hand as the similar annotations of the artist’s name on drawings in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (RP-T-1882-A-178; Jaap Bolten, Abraham Bloemaert, c. 1565–1651: The Drawings, Oegstgeest, Netherlands, 2007, vol. 1, cat. 1516, p. 444, repr. vol. 2, fig. 1516, p. 451) and Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf (FP 24–254; Bolten (2007), vol. 1, cat. 1470, p. 433, repr. vol. 2, fig. 1470, p. 440). While the inscription on the Düsseldorf drawing does appear to be by the hand that inscribed the Harvard sheet, the annotation on the drawing in Amsterdam is by a different hand.
2 Marcel Roethlisberger and Marten Jan Bok, Abraham Bloemaert and His Sons: Paintings and Prints (Doornspijk, 1993), vol. 1, p. 580.
3 Most of these early studies are in the Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen, Berlin; Jaap Bolten, “The Beginnings of Abraham Bloemaert’s Artistic Career,” Master Drawings, vol. 36, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 17–25; Bolten (2007), pp. 5 and 405–6, and cats. 1336–1400, pp. 406–15, and repr. vol. 2, pp. 418–25, figs. 1336– 1400.
4 Bolten (2007), vol. 1, cats. 1412–1476, pp. 419–35, and repr. vol. 2, pp. 427–44, figs. 1412–1476.
5 Karel van Mander and Hessel Miedema, The Lives of the Illustrious Netherlandish and German Painters, from the First Edition of the Schilder-boeck (1603–04) (Doornspijk, Netherlands 1994–99), vol. 1, p. 450; Bolten (2007), vol. 1, p. 406.
6 The most important series, which consists primarily of landscapes with farmhouses, was etched and published circa 1613–14 in Amsterdam by Boëtius Adamsz. Bolswert; Walter S. Gibson, Pleasant Places: The Rustic Landscape from Bruegel to Ruisdael (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London 2000), pp. 44–46 and 155–64; Bolten (2007), vol. 1, under cats. 1568–1591, pp. 461–69, and repr. vol. 2, pp. 471–79, figs. 1568–1591a.
7 Gibson, pp. 44–45 and 162; Bolten (2007), vol. 1, pp. 468–69. Gibson suggested that Visscher must have regarded Bloemaert’s works as the Dutch legacy of the “Small Landscapes” published in Antwerp in 1559 and 1561 (see cat. 57).
8 Gibson, pp. 155–57 and 162, title print of the Boëtius Adamsz. Bolswert series reproduced p. 156, fig. 108. Idem, p. 162, noted the change to the title print from the Latin poem in the Bolswert series to Visscher’s “laconic” “Verscheijden aerdige Lanthuijsen. . . .” Gibson (p. 162) translates aerdige as “lovely.” Van Mander used the same word in his description of the peasants’ houses in Bloemaert’s landscape paintings (see n. 5). Hessel Miedema in Van Mander/Miedema, vol. 1, p. 450, and vol. 2, p. 233, translated Van Mander’s aerdige as “well-observed,” but also remarked that it was “one of the vaguest and most well-worn terms used by Van Mander,” and it could also mean fine, light, and subtle. Bolten (2007), p. 406 (n. 2), preferred characteristic to Roethlisberger’s attractive.
9 Roethlisberger and Bok, under cat. 546, p. 340, identifies the recto and verso of the Harvard sheet as views of the same house. Bolten (2007), vol. 1, cats. 1472 and 1473, pp. 433–434, does not explicitly disagree with Roethlisberger and Bok, but he does not identify the recto and verso as views of the same house.
10 Cambridge, U.K., Fitzwilliam Museum, PD. 162‑1963; Bolten (2007), vol. 1, under cat. 1473, p. 434, and cat. 1474, repr. vol. 2, p. 442, fig. 1474.
11 Abraham Bloemaert, Farmyard with the Prodigal Son (Fig. 1), 1637. Oil on canvas, 60 × 69.3 cm. Blackheath, London, Ranger’s House. Signed and dated, ABloemaert fe. 1637. Roethlisberger and Bok, vol. 1, cat. 546, p. 340, repr. vol. 2, fig. 732, n.p.
12 The finished drawing is in Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, Tu 42/3b; Bolten (2007), vol. 1, under cat. 1472, p. 433, cat. 1637, p. 482, repr. vol. 2, p. 485, fig. 1637; Robinson, under cat. 21, p. 60, repr. fig. 2; Susan Kuretsky in Time and Transformation in Seventeenth‑Century Dutch Art (Poughkeepsie, NY: Loeb Art Center at Vassar College; Sarasota, FL: Ringling Museum of Art; Louisville, KY: The J. B. Speed Art Museum, 2005) under cat. 18, p. 150, repr. fig. 123.
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- European and American Art
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- Publication History
Master Drawings Exhibited by Bernard Houthakker 1971, auct. cat. (Amsterdam, 1971), cat. no. 7, n.p., repr.
Franklin W. Robinson, One Hundred Master Drawings from New England Private Collections, exh. cat. (Hanover, NH, 1973), cat. no. 9, pp. 32-33, repr. (recto and verso)
Curtis O. Baer, ed., Seventeenth Century Dutch Landscape Drawings and Selected Prints from American Collections, exh. cat., Vassar College Art Gallery (Poughkeepsie, NY, 1976), cat. no. 3, pp. 12 and 25, repr. pl. 3 (recto and verso)
Terez Gerszi, Paulus van Vianen Handzeichnungen, E. A. Seemann (Leipzig, Germany, 1982), under cat. no. 63, p. 209, repr. fig. 167 (verso)
William W. Robinson, Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exh. cat., H. O. Zimman, Inc. (Lynn, MA, 1991), cat. no. 21, pp. 60-61, repr.
Marcel Roethlisberger and Marten Jan Bok, Abraham Bloemaert and his Sons, Paintings and Prints, Davaco Publishers (Doornspijk, 1993), under cat. no. 546, p. 340
Anna Knaap, "From Lowlife to Rustic Idyll: The Peasant Genre in 17th-Century Dutch Drawings and Prints", Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1996), vol. IV, no. 2, pp. 31-59, cat. no. 5, pp. 34 and 55, repr. (recto)
Susan Donahue Kuretsky, Time and Transformation in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art, exh. cat., Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY, 2005), cat. no. 18, pp. 149-50, repr. p. 149 recto and verso (color)
Jaap Bolten, Abraham Bloemaert, c. 1565-1651: The Drawings (Netherlands, 2007), vol. 1, cat. nos. 1472 (recto) and 1473 (verso), pp. 433-434, under cat. no. 1474, p. 434, and under cat. no. 1637, p. 482, repr. vol. 2, p. 441, fig. 1472 (recto) and fig. 1473 (verso)
William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson, Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016), cat. no. 8, pp. 49-51, repr. p. 50 (recto and verso)
Jaap Bolten, The Drawings of Abraham Bloemaert: A Supplement, Master Drawings (New York, 2017), vol. 55, no. 1, pp. 3-120, cat. nos. 1472-1473, p. 101, figs. 326-327
- Exhibition History
Master Drawings Exhibited by Bernard Houthakker, Bernard Houhakker C.V., Amsterdam, 01/01/1971 - 12/31/1971
One Hundred Master Drawings from New England Private Collections, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, 09/05/1973 - 10/14/1973; Hopkins Center Art Galleries, Hanover, 10/26/1973 - 12/03/1973; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 12/14/1973 - 01/25/1974
Seventeenth Century Dutch Landscape Drawings and Selected Prints from American Collections, Vassar College Art Gallery, Poughkeepsie, 03/28/1976 - 05/07/1976
Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 02/23/1991 - 04/18/1991; Albertina Gallery, Vienna, 05/16/1991 - 06/30/1991; The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 01/22/1992 - 04/22/1992; Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/10/1992 - 12/06/1992
From Lowlife to Rustic Idyll: The Peasant Genre in 17th-Century Dutch Drawings and Prints, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/29/1997 - 06/22/1997
Time and Transformation in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, 04/08/2005 - 06/19/2005; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, 08/20/2005 - 10/30/2005; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, 01/10/2006 - 03/26/2006
- Subjects and Contexts
Dutch, Flemish, & Netherlandish Drawings
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