Flemish and Dutch paintings - Portraits, genre scenes, landscapes

Explore the Nordic paintings from le Musée Bertrand's collections that reflect society's sensibility in the second half of the 19th century. Between portraits, genre scenes and landscapes... From the Renaissance to the 19th century.

Portrait of a 32-year-old Man (1620) by Warnard Van WALCKERTMusée Bertrand

Portraits and Men

This oil on canvas dating from 1620 is a characteristic example of the Flemish primitive style which developed in the northern regions of Europe during the late Middle Ages. This surprisingly realistic portrait on a plain, neutral background depicts a man wearing a doctor's hat.

The work of the shiny black fabric contrasting the transparent white of the ruff, the finesse of the hair and the precision of the work on the eye, reveal the great mastery of the painter.

Thanks to the introduction of new painting techniques in this era, the painter demonstrates real naturalism and realism in his brushstrokes, in order to be as faithful as possible to the model.

Portrait de famille (17th century) by Jan VERKOLJEMusée Bertrand

The antique-style backdrop and the perspective of a pleasure garden testify to the good taste and the erudition of this aristocrat accompanied by his wife and daughter.

It is a question here of displaying his possessions and his wealth, in a society where appearances are the main focus.

This display is evoked by the beautiful outfits (finesse of coloring and meticulous detailing of fabrics), elaborate hairstyles…

…and the presence of a rug, on the right, probably coming from the East, on which rare fruits are placed.

The dog, a symbol of loyalty, also provides this refined but frozen scene with a moment of time from a prosperous life.

Portrait of a Man in a Fur Cap (15th century) by Flemish anonymousMusée Bertrand

This man's hair is in the zazzera style ("mop of hair" in Italian), a very fashionable hairstyle in 15th century Venice. He is probably an Italian merchant who decided to have his portrait painted during one of his trips to Flanders.
Over his strange hairstyle, he is wearing a simple black skullcap, rather than a stuffed cap as the title suggests.

Portrait of a Man (17th century) by Cornelis BISSCHOPMusée Bertrand

This high ranking member of the Dutch army, or officer of the civilian militia, is depicted in three-quarter profile in this oil on canvas by Cornelis Bisschop. A 17th century Dutch painter, he was known for his powerful realism in his portraits, for which he accepted no concessions.

This portrait depicts this officer richly dressed, holding his head up in a very dignified manner. His hand is placed on his harness and his gaze is penetrating.

A Lord and His Horse (17th century) by Thomas DE KEISERMusée Bertrand

A successful painter, much appreciated by the Amsterdam upper class, Thomas Henricksz de Keser depicts here a person of note, his groom and his horse in an antique backdrop against a Mediterranean landscape setting.

The presence of the statue of Hercule Farnèse with his souvenirs of the 12 Labors (club, Nemean lion skin, golden apple of the Hesperides) suggests the power and erudition of this lord.

Woman Holding a Light (17th century) by Gerrit DOUMusée Bertrand

Guerrit Dou owes much of his talent to the great master Rembrandt. His specialty would become the chiaroscuro, a very recognizable style in Nordic painting.
This Young Woman holding a lamp is a perfect example of this study of light.

The soft glow from the candle flame subtly illuminates this young woman's face, glides across the fabric, and passes through the fingers of her hand, leaving the rest of the scene in shadow.

Young Woman Blowing on Stove (17th century) by Godfried Cornelisz SCHALCKENMusée Bertrand

Dou is not the only one to work with light in these works. Goldfried Cornelisz Schlacken, from the Leiden School, also uses ingenious effects and techniques in order to create this soft, meticulous touch that we see in this Young Woman blowing on a stove.

The rendering of the different textures is revealed and modeled by the artificial light which, down to the last details of the small sparks escaping from the stove, would give the scene a certain poetry.

Preparation of a Meal in a Hostel (17th century) by Jan Miensz MOLENAERMusée Bertrand

Genre scenes

Very popular with buyers during the second half of the 19th century, genre scenes gradually replaced history painting among art lovers. It was in Northern Europe where painters reached the peak of perfection for these genre scenes around the 17th century, drawing upon everyday scenes with a popular atmosphere. A sort of memento mori, they often had the message : " You enjoy pleasant moments, of course, but do not forget, you are only passing through on Earth ! ". This oil on wood depicts a musical scene during the preparation of a meal.

The Fortune Teller (2e quart 17e siècle) by Jan Miensz MOLENAERMusée Bertrand

By the same painter, Jan Miensz Molenaer, this oil on wood features a scene from the daily life of a fortune teller.

A man, most likely a bourgeois, has come to ask her about his future.

A maid, in the shadows, is most likely bringing her new clients.

On the left, in the half-light, a man, perhaps accompanied by a woman, pushes back the curtains that are hiding a bed.

This is about denouncing the pleasures arising from excessive consumption: tobacco, gambling, lust, etc., because for the moralists of the 17th century, these are the mark "of a lazy nature and therefore by extension the attribute of personified vice".

The Procession (17th century) by Pieter BOUT and Adriaen Frans BOUDEWYNSMusée Bertrand

Particularly appreciated by his contemporaries, Pieter Bout often worked with landscape painters, the most famous of whom were Jacques d'Arthois, or as here, Adriaen Frans Boudewijns.

This scene of popular piety combines the work of these two painters. Pieter Bout's work is above all recognized by his way of placing small figures in a half-rural, half-urban panorama.

As for Boudewijns, he demonstrates a sharp sense of observation but also of interpretation in his brushstrokes. It is through his architectures and his detailed touch for foliage that the spectator can admire the extent of his study.

Interior of the Stables (17th century) by Hendrik VERSCHURINGMusée Bertrand

Henrick Verschuring, known as the Old Man, made cavalry and battle scenes his specialty.
In this painting, he chooses to present us with a moment of rest and attention.
The description of this stable, animated by the central motif which is the white horse and cluttered with a few objects, also shows the taste that the painter had for the meticulous description of some elements of still life.

Woman Holding a Mousetrap, Melchior BRASSAW, 18th century, From the collection of: Musée Bertrand
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This series of eight oils on copper showcases men and women in the actions of their daily lives:

Here, there is a woman with a mousetrap.

The Poultry Seller, Melchior BRASSAW, 18th century, From the collection of: Musée Bertrand
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A woman selling poultry.

The News, Melchior BRASSAW, 18th century, From the collection of: Musée Bertrand
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A man reading a letter to another man.

Glass Merchant, Melchior BRASSAW, 18th century, From the collection of: Musée Bertrand
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A glasses seller.

Reading Lesson, Melchior BRASSAW, 18th century, From the collection of: Musée Bertrand
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A tutor giving a reading lesson.

Woman Holding a Reel, Melchior BRASSAW, 18th century, From the collection of: Musée Bertrand
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A woman unwinding a tangle.

The Lace Maker, Melchior BRASSAW, 18th century, From the collection of: Musée Bertrand
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A lacemaker.

The Tankard, Melchior BRASSAW, 18th century, From the collection of: Musée Bertrand
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A man with a mug in his hand.

Signing a Contract (18th century) by Jan Josef HOREMANS IIMusée Bertrand

Genre painting saw considerable success among the Antwerp bourgeoisie in the 18th century, who liked to be portrayed in everyday situations or in solemn contexts such as notarized acts.
Here, five people are gathered in a notary's office to sign a marriage contract.

The future spouses are seated on one side of the table facing the lawyer and flanked by, presumably, two witnesses.

With a wave of her hand, the woman addresses her husband who is holding a sheet, on which is probably the list of respective possessions. The upholstery is decorated with Cordoba leather.

Cavaliers Stop at a Hostel (17th century) by Gael BARENTMusée Bertrand

Gael Barent is considered as the artist of popular festivities.

Here, he depicts horsemen stopping at an inn. We can see some figures on the road, as well as others sitting down at a table in front of the door of the inn.

Ice Skating Scene (1856) by Andreas SCHELFHOUTMusée Bertrand

The Landscape

Andreas Schelfhout brought winter scene painting to its highest level. He is one of the central figures from the Hague School in the first half of the 19th century.

Worked in a cold and luminous color harmony where the adamantine clarity of the ice mixes with the blue tones of winter, this scene of daily life on one of the canals of The Hague is very imbued with the influences that the painter was subjected to during his stays in Paris.

This large painting allows the spectator to appreciate the precision and realism of Schelfhout's work: the finesse of the branches, the composition of the brick wall, the scratched ice, taking our gaze far into the background where the city is shown, and where we can still distinguish the presence of a mill.

Riverside Scene (1774) by Dirck LANGENDIJKMusée Bertrand

The animation of this scene is in keeping with the tradition of the 17th century landscapes from the Haarlem School, featuring these same small, pleasant images of everyday life.
In this oil on canvas, we can see a young rider on a white horse pointing out to two washerwomen two men who are bathing in the river.

This light-hearted depiction illustrates the pleasures and activities that having a body of water nearby allows.

View of Schenvenigen Beach (17th century) by Salomon Gillisz ROMBOUTSMusée Bertrand

The beach at Scheveningen, near The Hague, was chosen many times over as a motif by the Dutch landscape painters. This type of panorama indeed made it possible to merge several genres: the seascape, the landscape, and the genre scene. The paintings featuring this seashore were so numerous that they are today considered as an independent category in 17th century Dutch landscape painting.

This coastal landscape is painted in shades whose warm browns in the foreground cool off toward the distance.

It is enhanced by a few notes of bright red, skillfully placed on the rider's jacket, the merchant's dress, and the villager's skirt, and by a luminous white for the horse's coat.

Seascape, Orazio GREVENBROECK, End of 17th century / beginning of 18th century, From the collection of: Musée Bertrand
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These two seascapes (attributed to Orazio Grevenbroeck) recall the famous Mediterranean ports of Jacobus Storck (1641-1693).

Seascape, Orazio GREVENBROECK, End of 17th century / beginning of 18th century, From the collection of: Musée Bertrand
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Vast eclectic architectures of ancient and classical origin serve as the backdrop to these sea views animated by large caravels and smaller boats.

View of the Town of Elten (1652) by Jan VAN GOYENMusée Bertrand

Painted at the end of his life, this view of Elten follows a trip that Jan van Goyen made to the banks of the Dutch Rhine in 1650 and 1651.

The impression of depth is suggested by the superimposition of horizontal bands of different sizes.

The horizon is placed low on the canvas, the foreground in shadow gives the idea of depth, while the sky, which takes up almost the entire composition, gives the painting all of its atmosphere, be it joyful, threatening, or majestic.

View of the Village of Well, on the River Meuse (1737) by DE BEYER JanMusée Bertrand

This pencil drawing from life faithfully depicts the city of Well. Its horizontal format is comparable to other topographical views by Jan de Beijer.
The panoramic nature of this work allows us to appreciate both the activity on the river (moored boats, flat-bottomed boats) as well as a row of thatched cottages and a Romanesque church that punctuate the landscape against the backdrop of a vast, peaceful sky.

Landscape during a storm (C.1775) by Simon DENISMusée Bertrand

Simon Denis captures nature at the moment when the elements are unleashed, that moment when the wind brings the first raindrops to fall on the trees before the storm.

Here, the small figures and the cows are mere extras against a majestic backdrop with idealistic resonances.
This painting shows a desire for realism mixed with an idealized conception of nature, which is the very substance of neoclassicism, a movement to which this painter can be linked.

Pastoral Scene (C.1642) by Gillis PEETERSMusée Bertrand

Probably produced in the early 1640s, this canvas is in keeping with the collective of Flemish landscapes which clearly influenced the Dutch conception of the pastoral scene.

In the middle of a winding path, a shepherd kneels before a shepherdess, squeezing her hand as if making a declaration of love to her.
A herd of goats surrounds them.

On the right, the perspective gives rise to a beautiful view over a vast panorama, in the background of which we can make out buildings, some of which have towers.

This pastoral scene is bathed in a warm harmony of yellowish browns with rich contrasting tones, animated by the small colored patches of the couple's clothing and the vivid white of the goats' fur.

Relief of a Feast (17th century) by Willem GABRONMusée Bertrand

Still Life

Still life paintings are another genre much favored by Flemish painters for the attention to detail that they can bring to them, like with this oil on wood by Willem Gabron.

Here, this abandoned meal suggests the frailty of human existence.

The robustness of the tin and silver objects is set against the fragility of the glassware.

The brevity of our existence and the joys that are only fleeting are illustrated by the foodstuffs presented. Wine and beer, symbols of drunkenness; open oysters, an image of carnal pleasure; lemon peel also evoking the precariousness of life.

Still Life (17th century) by Jan I VAN KESSELMusée Bertrand

The skilfully organized disorder of this composition on copper by Jan van Kessel (known as the Old Man) also symbolically evokes the cycle of life and the fragility of human existence: a white butterfly, cut flowers, a fallen rose, a wicker basket containing wilted tulips dangling above the ground, snowballs, and a poppy.
The apples add the message of original sin to the register.

Note the presence of small domestic animals, recurrent in the still life paintings of this artist. Here, he has chosen a guinea pig.

Credits: Story

Musée Bertrand de Châteauroux.

Kevin Guillebaud
Candice Signoret

Photos : © Musée Bertrand

D'après les textes de Sandrine Le Bideau in catalogue "Peintures flamande et hollandaise - Collection des musées de Châteauroux" Somogy-Editions d'Art, 2001

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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