Exhibition of Europe’s ‘Golden Age of Painting’ opens at Jule Collins Smith Museum Oct. 19

Published: October 09, 2014
Updated: October 10, 2014
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Works by master European painters will be on display at Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University in the exhibition "Rembrandt, Rubens, Gainsborough, and the Golden Age of Painting in Europe" Oct. 19 through Jan. 4.

The travelling exhibition features 69 works from the distinguished collection of Old Master paintings from The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and makes its Alabama debut at Auburn's art museum.

Art from Italy, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and England includes portraits of princesses, soldiers, kings, singers, clergymen and actors in luxurious dress. Images of gods and goddesses inspired by the ancient world demonstrate an interest in Greece and Rome. In contrast, other works provide a glimpse into the details of everyday life – from household goods to daily chores to interior decoration – found in homes in Western Europe. Highlights include "The Princes of the Church Adoring the Eucharist" by Peter Paul Rubens and "Portrait of a Forty-Year-Old Woman" by Rembrandt van Rijn.

The artwork illustrates how the economic growth that swept Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries fueled a period of artistic creation. Often referred to as the Age of Enlightenment, the 200 years in which the art was produced was a time of exploration, religious reform and scientific advances. The technical aspects of how artists created their art evolved with the development of art academies and the increased popularity of the fine arts.

During its 10-year history, the museum has introduced artwork from diverse cultures and time periods, but this is the first time guests will have the opportunity to experience Old Master paintings created between 1600 and 1800.

Museum Director Marilyn Laufer said the historical context is part of what makes the exhibition especially exciting. "It is important to remember that at the time the paintings were made, they were contemporary paintings for those people who commissioned and collected them," she said. "You might look at a Flemish still life of tulips differently when you consider the Tulip Mania of 1637, one of the first recorded economic bubbles of the western world."

"The exhibition truly illustrates the wide range of discussion that art can generate," Laufer said. "Providing new insights has always been at the heart of what we do at the museum, because expanding our understanding of the world offers all of us the tools to imagine the future. We hope the exhibition provides guests with an understanding of the art made during this important period in history, but more so to understand that all artists respond to and reflect the tumultuous world in which they live."

Scheduled events for both the general public and museum members include a lecture by Dennis P. Weller, curator of Northern European Art, North Carolina Museum of Art; hands-on art history lessons for elementary and high school students; and a presentation of the documentary film, "Tim's Vermeer." Resources for self-guided tours are available, but classes and small groups may also schedule docent-led tours by contacting the museum.

Following the installation at Auburn, the traveling exhibition of paintings will move to Huntsville Museum of Art in February 2015, making the state of Alabama the final stop for the three-year-long tour.

"Rembrandt, Rubens, Gainsborough and the Golden Age of Painting in Europe" has been organized by the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky. The exhibition at Auburn is generously underwritten in part by Dorothy Davidson. A recommended donation of $5 for admittance to the exhibition is suggested. For more images from the exhibition, go to http://www.jcsm.auburn.edu/exhibitions/all_exhibitions/2014/2014_10_golden_age_of_painting.html and select Gallery.  For more information about the museum, visit www.jcsm.auburn.edu or call (334) 844-1484.

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