Seventeenth-century Dutch artist Willem van Aelst painted still lifes that are remarkable for their fine finish, carefully balanced composition, elegant subject matter, and rich, jewel-toned palette. Elegance and Refinement is an unprecedented exhibition of more than 25 paintings that celebrate the exquisite work of a neglected master who had a significant impact on late-17th-century still-life painting.
Van Aelst (1627–1683) was one of the most technically brilliant Dutch still-life painters of his time. Born and trained in Delft, he spent most of his life in Amsterdam, but his paintings were forever transformed by the 10 years he spent abroad as a youth—first in France and then in Florence, at the Medici court. There, he accepted commissions from the Medicis and other high-ranking aristocrats. As his reputation grew, Van Aelst adapted his skills to subjects that appealed to his elite clientele. His work typically depicts arrangements of fresh fruit and flowers; precious objects found in the home, such as sumptuous drapery and Venetian glassware; displays of dead game; and evocations of the forest floor.
Accompanying the exhibition is the first-ever monograph on Van Aelst’s paintings, published by Skira Rizzoli in conjunction with the MFAH.