Gerrit Dou - The Physician
Gerrit Dou - The Physician
Related reading: Treasury: a generous legacy
Gerrit Dou was Rembrandt van Rijn’s first student, training with him in Leiden while in his teens, and for a significant period he eclipsed his master’s reputation. Rich with coded narratives, his extraordinarily detailed paintings were prized throughout Europe by the wealthiest royal and aristocratic collectors. The figure examining the bottle of liquid in this painting is believed to be a self-portrait, and is identified as a piskijker– a medical practitioner skilled at studying urine, here for a pregnancy test. Symbols of his skill and learning are prominent, including a celestial globe and carefully positioned anatomy textbook. The skeleton on the open page leaning like a gravedigger on his spade is the ultimate symbol of vanitas – a reminder of the fragile brevity of a human life. At the same time it looks with anticipation to a child to come.
(Persistent Encounters, March 2020)
Recounting the untold stories behind some of the works in the exhibition Treasury: A Generous Legacy, curator Ken Hall also underlines the value of art philanthropy.
The wisdom of crowds
In recent years, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing have become big news in the arts. By providing a funding model that enables would-be-investors to become involved in the production of new works, they have altered traditional models of patronage. Musicians, designers, dancers and visual artists are inviting the public to finance their projects via the internet. The public are also being asked to provide wealth in the form of cultural capital through crowdsourcing projects. The Gallery has been involved in two online crowdfunding ventures – a project with a public art focus around our 10th birthday celebrations, and the purchase of a major sculpture for the city. But, although these projects have been made possible by the internet, the concept behind the funding model is certainly not new. The rise of online crowdfunding platforms also raises important questions about the role of the state in the funding and generation of artwork, and the democratisation of tastemaking. How are models of supply and demand affected? Does the freedom from more traditional funding models allow greater innovation? Do 'serious' artists even ask for money? It's a big topic, and one that is undoubtedly shaping up in PhD theses around the world already. Bulletin asked a few commentators for their thoughts on the matter.
The East India Company man: Brigadier-General Alexander Walker
Getting to know people can take time. While preparing for a future exhibition of early portraits from the collection, I'm becoming acquainted with Alexander Walker, and finding him a rewarding subject. Painted in 1819 by the leading Scottish portraitist of his day, Sir Henry Raeburn, Walker's portrait is wrought with Raeburn's characteristic blend of painterly vigour and attentive care and conveys the impression of a well-captured likeness.