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Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting

March 18–May 13, 1984

As no other people before them, the 17th-century Dutch left a detailed visual record of their society, land, and possessions. The richness and beauty of Dutch genre painting--scenes of everyday life--is revealed in 120 paintings lent by museums and private collections in Europe and the United States, the first major exhibition of the subject ever mounted in this country. With the rise of the Dutch republic in the 17th century came a new prosperity, a growth in the urban middle classes, and a corresponding increase in the ordinary citizen's demand for art. Everyday life often formed the subject matter of the Dutch burgher's new paintings. Steen's boisterous scenes of drinking and holiday merriment, the more refined pleasures depicted by Vermeer and ter Borch, and the simple images of work, whether in de Hooch's light-filled domestic interiors or Breklenkam's cobblers' shops, have a compelling truth to life. The naturalistic appearance of Dutch genre, however, can be misleading. These paintings could function on many different levels, from purely reportorial to profoundly symbolic. This exhibition explores these meanings and relates them to the larger contexts of the history of the painting type and Dutch culture generally.


Philadelphia Museum of Art
Gemaldegalerie, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin (West)
The Royal Academy of Arts, London


Philadelphia Museum of Art
Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Gemaldergallerie, Berlin, Germany
Royal Academy of Arts, London

Main Building


The National Endowment for the Arts
The Pew Memorial Trust
The Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities


Peter Sutton

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