Works from one of the finest private collections of Dutch drawings in the world on view at the MFAH April 15–July 8, 2012                                                                                          

Houston—March 2012—A selection of works from one of the world’s finest private collections of Dutch drawings will be presented in the Audrey Jones Beck Galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, beginning April 15. Selected from the collection assembled by George and Maida Abrams over five decades, the exhibition includes nine works by Rembrandt as well as nearly fifty sheets by his pupils and followers, including examples never before exhibited or published. The exhibition was originally organized by the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Drawings by Rembrandt, His Students, and Circle from the Maida and George Abrams Collection reveals the expressive mastery and dazzling freedom of Rembrandt’s pen drawings and investigates the character and use of individual drawings, from figure studies made from life, to finished drawings composed in the studio to landscape studies executed en plein air on the artist’s walks outside Amsterdam. The exhibition and its catalogue also explore the functions of drawings in Rembrandt’s studio and their relationship to his teaching practices. Some drawings by Rembrandt’s students and followers seem to have been assignments, for example, in how best and most accurately to convey the narrative drama of a historical subject. Others clearly were life studies designed to train the eye and hand, ranging from preparatory to more finished works, be it another drawing, print or a painting. And still other works were topographic studies or records of travel and novelties to be consulted in the future. Nevertheless, all of the works in this exhibition achieve the expressive power associated with Rembrandt’s mastery. 

“These beautiful 17th-century drawings by Rembrandt and his students are superb in quality,” said MFAH director Gary Tinterow. “It is a coup for the MFAH to display nearly 60 of these works from the Abrams Collection.”

“This exhibition marks the first time drawings by Rembrandt and his circle have ever been shown exclusively in Houston,” said Dena Woodall, MFAH Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings. “While offering the public a chance to see one of the most important groups of Dutch drawings collected in the past half century, it also opens a window into 17th-century Holland and the thought process of Rembrandt and his school.”

In addition to Rembrandt’s works, the exhibition will include sheets by his pupils and associates, including Ferdinand Bol, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Govert Flinck, Abraham Furnerius, Arent de Gelder, Samuel van Hoogstraten, Jan Lievens, Nicolas Maes, Roelant Roghman, and Pieter de With, as well as an anonymous follower of the master.  Although not all of these artists are documented as Rembrandt’s students, the biographies of the individual artists present evidence for their connection with him. Additionally, the exhibition catalogue and interpretive material address the difficult issues of connoisseurship in this field.  

The exceptional breadth of the Abrams collection enables the exploration of the diversity and parameters of Rembrandt’s style, including not only compositional and figure studies, but also landscapes, and chalk as well as ink drawings.  Of particular interest among the figure studies are Rembrandt’s Old Man with a Walking Stick, a drawing that captures the stooped form and shuffling gait of his elderly subject with the greatest of graphic economy, and the vivid characterization of Four Studies of Male Heads. The exhibition also offers an opportunity for in-depth analysis of the drawing styles of individual masters, such as Jan Lievens, Govert Flinck, Nicolaes Maes and Roelant Roghman. The collection permits fascinating comparisons, for example, between Flinck and Backer, who must have sat side by side as they sketched female nudes in the studio.  

About the Catalogue
The full-color, 200-page exhibition catalogue is by Peter C. Sutton, specialist in Northern Baroque Art and the Executive Director of the Bruce Museum, and William W. Robinson, the Maida and George Abrams Curator at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University.   

Organization and Credit
This exhibition is organized by the Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut. 

Upcoming Exhibitions at the MFAH

  • Unrivalled Splendor: The Kimiko and John Powers Collection of Japanese Art
    June 17–September 23, 2012
  • Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London 
    June 3–September 3, 2012
  • Duncan Phyfe, Master Cabinetmaker in New York
    June 24–September 9, 2012

MFAH Collections
Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is among the ten largest art museums in the United States. Located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, the MFAH comprises two gallery buildings, a sculpture garden, library, theater and two art schools, with two house museums, for American and European decorative arts, nearby. The encyclopedic collection of the MFAH numbers some 64,000 works and embraces the art of antiquity to the present.

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