Archive for the ‘Polesden Lacey’ Category

Gabriel Metsu reassessed

June 8, 2011

A man writing a letter, by Gabriel Metsu (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin), on the cover of the exhibition catalogue. ©Yale University Press

A review in the June issue of Apollo reminded me of the important exhibition about the work of seventeenth-century Dutch painter Gabriel Metsu at the National Gallery of Ireland (and currently at the National Gallery of Art, Washington), curated by Adriaan Waiboer. The catalogue can be obtained through Amazon.

Gabriel Metsu, A black woman in a window, at Polesden Lacey, Surrey. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

The exhibition and catalogue explain how Metsu succesfully worked in a variety of different genres. He created little vignettes in the style of fijnschilder Gerrit Dou, but also produced conversation pieces similar to the work of Pieter de Hooch. He even occasionally emulated the balance and stillness of Johannes Vermeer’s compositions.

Gabriel Metsu, A couple making music in an interior, at Upton House, Warwickshire. ©NTPL/Christopher Hurst

I found it enlightening to learn that the narrative and sometimes sentimental aspects of Metsu’s work were particularly appreciated by eighteenth-century French artists like Chardin and Greuze. It is always fascinating to get a glimpse of how the past appreciated its past.

I met Adriaan a couple of years ago when we were both acting as courier, accompanying old master paintings to an exhibition in Tokyo. After our duties were done we ended up in an Irish bar in downtown Tokyo, discussing Dutch painting among the Guinness-quaffing hip young Japanese – one of those post-modern, post-surreal Japanese experiences.