museum review - The QMA brings Dutch art to Doha

River Landscape With Riders, Aelbert Cuyp
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Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, presents ‘The Golden Age of Dutch Painting. Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum’, the first major exhibition of Dutch art in the Gulf region, taking place in the temporary exhibition hall at the Museum of Islamic Art until June 6, 2011.


Forty-four paintings, among the best in the Rijksmuseum’s collection, are being loaned to QMA. These paintings give a wide-ranging view of the artists, lifestyle, and topography of Holland in the 17th century.

Paintings on view include works by the finest painters of their time, including the loose brushwork and portraiture of Frans Hals, master of light Johannes Vermeer, and perhaps the finest painter of the 17th century and arguably the greatest European painter of all time, Dutch master Rembrandt. A catalogue to accompany the exhibition will be available in both Arabic and English for visitors, as well as educational activities for children and film screenings.

Two horses near a gate in the meadow, Paulus Potter

The 17th century was a period of prosperity for the Netherlands. In a matter of decades, this small northern European country made remarkable contributions in the fields of science and exploration, the arts, and international trade, industry, and engineering. It was a Golden Age, the fruits of which are still evident in the elegant buildings that grace many Dutch cities, and, of course, in the thousands of surviving masterpieces produced during this time.

With an increasingly wealthy Dutch society, fuelled by a dominant position in world trade typified by the Dutch East India Company (the world’s first ever multinational), artists were free to develop their talents through commissions and specialise in their own genre, though even greats such as Vermeer passed away heavily in debt. Some of the dominant themes of the Golden Age of Dutch painting include: historical narratives; landscapes; architecture; and still life. Examples of each of these themes are on display at the exhibition in the Museum of Islamic Art.

In terms of style, Dutch art of this golden age is characterised by close attention to detail as well as its vivid realism. Artists took great pride in their ability to imitate nature so effectively with their brushes that they could actually fool viewers of their paintings.

Over the past few years, Qatar Museums Authority has embarked on establishing relationships with leading international cultural institutions, among them the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which was founded in 1800 and boasts one of the best collections of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age.

QMA has organised this exhibition to introduce the local community and the region to Dutch art, which revolutionised the art scene at the time by breaking away from Baroque style. Exhibiting international art in Qatar is central to QMA’s objectives as an organisation aiming to encourage global cultural dialogue and promote intellectual exchange.

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