Accompanying the exhibition “Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting” (at the Louvre from February 22 to May 22, 2017) and organized in partnership with the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA), “Drawing the Everyday” explores the proliferation of everyday motifs in drawings by Golden Age history, genre, landscape, and portrait painters in Holland. These depictions of everyday life contributed to the visual construction and sense of identity of the young Dutch Republic.
The selection of ninety-three works from the public collections in France, by artists such as Rembrandt, Van Goyen, Van Ostade, and Buytewech, shows the great diversity and the codification of subjects portraying daily life in 17th-century Holland (domestic life, small trades, entertainment, military and peasant scenes, etc.). It highlights the complexity of their relationship with reality, between observation and reconstruction, a snapshot-like quality and conventions of representation.
The exhibition revolves around two distinctive worlds: – City life: The artists culled motifs from their urban environment, sketching quickly on the spot or shortly after observation. Rembrandt was a pioneer of this new practice, drawing people in his entourage, as well as beggars from the streets of Amsterdam. In addition to street scenes, the drawings on display show urban interiors, places of entertainment as well as places of domestic life elevated by the Protestant religion as temples of virtue. On the fringes of this urban world, military life gave rise to specific portrayals that were highly popular.
– Rural life: The city of Haarlem was the heart of the “peasant genre” with Adriaen van Ostade leading the way, followed by his many students. In the work of these talented draftsmen, rural dwellers were reduced to traditional “types”: the peasant, the peddler, the traveling musician, etc. They appeared as uncouth beings, indulging in drink, tobacco, and gambling. The mid-17th century nevertheless marked a turning point in the evocation of peasant mores. Inn scenes became peaceful and joyous, while domestic interiors celebrated the virtuous simplicity of their existence.