The Art of Drawing in the Early Dutch Golden Age, 1590–1630: Selected Works from the Abrams Collection

, European Art, 17th–19th century, Harvard Art Museums

A woman in profile kneeling and facing a child standing with a walking stick.

European Art, 17th–19th century, Harvard Art Museums

After declaring its de facto independence from Habsburg Spain in 1581, the newly formed Dutch Republic became a laboratory for political and social reform. The republic was characterized by religious tolerance, a large urban middle class, and growing economic and military might. Amid these favorable conditions, an extremely vibrant artistic scene emerged, heralding the arrival of the Dutch Golden Age.

Featuring works from the esteemed collection of Maida and George Abrams (Harvard A.B. ’54, LL.B. ’57), this installation of 31 drawings explores the extraordinary developments in Dutch art in the period between 1590 and 1630. The works on view present some of the major themes in Dutch art, including the development of high and low genres, the study of landscape, and the interest in the nude; many of these subjects initially emerged in the medium of drawing. Beyond its central role in the creative conception of any work of art, drawing came to be regarded as an autonomous and technically ambitious art form. The works on display celebrate the role of drawing as a catalyst of creativity during the early Golden Age.

Organized by the Harvard Art Museums. Curated by Austėja Mackelaitė, the Stanley H. Durwood Foundation Curatorial Fellow, with assistance from Susan Anderson, Curatorial Research Associate for Dutch and Flemish Drawings, both in the Division of European and American Art at the Harvard Art Museums.

This installation was made possible in part by the Stanley H. Durwood Foundation Support Fund.

Related Programming
The installation coincides with the November 4 symposium Dutch Drawings on the Horizon: A Day of Talks in Honor of George S. Abrams, which brings together international experts on 17th-century Dutch drawings. Abrams and his late wife, Maida, pioneered the collecting of Dutch drawings in the United States and have been a unifying force for study and scholarship in the field. Their generous gift of 110 works in 1999 transformed the Harvard Art Museums’ Dutch drawings collection into one of the most comprehensive in any U.S. museum. Information about other events related to the installation, including gallery talks and a Materials Lab Workshop on November 14, can be found on the museums’ calendar.