The Van Otterloo Collection

Gerrit Dou
"Sleeping Dog", 1650
Oil on panel, 6.5 x 8.5 inches
The Rose-Marie and Eijk Van Otterloo Collection

Today I went to see the Van Otterloo Collection exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, MA).

I am very nearly dumbstruck.

Although there have been rave reviews about this show, I was really not prepared for what I saw; it's the finest grouping of paintings from this period under one roof I've ever seen. It may even be the finest grouping of paintings I've ever seen, period, but then I'm particularly biased to the art of this time and place.

It's not a particularly large collection (about 70 pieces), but it spans nearly every facet of Dutch Golden Age painting; portraiture, landscape, nautical scenes, genre paintings, church interiors, still lifes, florals, histories, etc. Not only is the selection broad, but many of the paintings are absolute examplars of their types... even the Rembrandt portrait. I don't normally pay a whole lot of attention to his pieces (I tend to think he's an over-rated artist), but I have to admit I found his piece in the exhibit to be extremely moving.

For me the real superstar pieces in the show were the 2 works by Gerrit Dou; his self-portrait, and the fascinating still life (well... sort of) pictured above. I've admired Dou for a long time, but seeing these 2 pieces in person bumped him way up into my Favorite Painters list. Wow...

Also, the framing of these pieces was wonderful; most of them housed in wide, dramatic, black frames; it was an absolutely thrilling effect. I wish photography was allowed in the gallery, because the almost none of the images in the exhibition book show the frames, which in this case become an integral part of the works.

So, many thanks to the Van Otterloos for making this amazing, unbelievable collection available to the public. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have seen these pieces. Basically, anybody who has the slightest interest in painting, and lives within driving distance of Salem, really needs to go see this exhibit between now and June 19th.

I, of course, will be going back.