Gopnik, Blake “'Pride of Place': Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age at the National Gallery of Art,” Washington Post

(Feb. 3, 2009)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/02/AR2009020203455.html?hpid=artslot n!"##$%!a!&'tch!artist!called!(an!)an!der!*eyden!painted!a!grand! )iew!o+!Amsterdam,s!newly!-'ilt!town!hall%!declared!the!.ighth! /onder!o+!the!/orld!--!-y!&'tchmen%!at!least.! 0't!when!yo'!+irst!come!across!that!pict're!in!12ride!o+!2lace:! &'tch!3ityscapes!o+!the!4olden!Age%1!a!+ascinating!new!show!at! the ! 5ational ! 4allery ! o+ ! Art% ! yo' ! wonder ! what ! yo'ng ! )an ! der! *eyden ! had ! -een ! smo6ing ! when ! he ! painted ! it. ! 78his ! is! Amsterdam% ! a+ter ! all.9 ! 8he ! hall,s ! great ! c'pola ! loo6s ! thin ! and! drawn%!as!tho'gh!a!:onty!2ython!hand!o+!4od!has!gi)en!it!a! s;'ee<e.! =et!his!c'pola!loo6s!odd!only!i+!yo'!stand!directly!in!+ront!o+!the!pict're%!as!we,)e!-een!trained!to!do!with!modern! images:!snapshots%!8>!screens%!newspaper!photos%!almost!any!image!made!with!a!lens%!in!+act.! >iew!this!distinctly!'nmodern%!pre-photographic!pict're!as!it!was!meant!to!-e!seen%!+rom!)ery!close%!and!+rom!a ! point!more!or!less!lined!'p!with!the!eyes!o+!the!horse!at!its!+ar!-ottom!right%!and!its!c'pola!seems!not!?'st!normal% ! -'t!st'nningly!real%!almost!as!tho'gh!it,s!sitting!high!a-o)e!yo'!in!the!air.! A!+ew!ho'rs!spent!with!the!4@!paintings!in!12ride!o+!2lace%1!the!latest!gro'nd-rea6ing!show!+rom!c'rator!Arth'r ! /heeloc6%!s'ggests!that!we!might!want!to!h'nt!+or!a!proper%!'p-close!)iewing!spot!+or!e)ery!image.!8hat,s!not! what!this!eAhi-ition!is!o++icially!a-o'tB!it,s!more!+oc'sed!on!the!'r-an!world!its!pict'res!show.!0't!it!highlights! something!more!pro+o'nd:!that!o)er!the!past!+ew!cent'ries%!we,)e!lost!all!cl'e!o+!how!to!loo6!at!classic!&'tch ! pict'res.!Citerally:!/e!don,t!6now!how!to!'se!o'r!eyes!to!ta6e!these!pict'res!in%!where!to!stand!to!do!it!and!what ! to!loo6!+or!once!we,)e!got!to!where!we!need!to!-e.! 7 nterestingly%!when!)an!der!*eyden!sold!his!pict're!so'th%!to!a!:edici!d'6e%!he!incl'ded!some!6ind!o+!de)ice!yo' ! co'ld!attach!to!the!+rame!to!set!yo'r!eye!at!the!right!point!o+!)iew.! t!seems!that! talians%!li6e!'s%!needed!help!with ! loo6ing!at!the!pict'res!-y!their!&'tch!contemporaries.9! A!wall!la-el!says!that%!-y!showing!his!scene!+rom!so!close!-y%!)an!der!*eyden!1distorted!the!perspecti)e!o+!the ! c'pola.1!8hat,s!not!right.!*e!hasn,t!1distorted1!his!c'pola.!*e,s!depicted!it!eAactly!as!it!wo'ld!ha)e!loo6ed!+or ! Amsterdamers!standing!on!the!right!edge!o+!the!s;'are%!with!the!town!hall!rising!to!their!le+t!as!they!stare!straight! ahead.!8he!c'pola!only!seems!distorted!to!us%!in!the!2"st!cent'ry.! Dnce!we!come!close!eno'gh!to!see!his!18own!*all1!thro'gh!1period!eyes%1!)an!der!*eyden,s!scene!ta6es!on!an ! eerie!depth!and!realism.!8he!town!hall,s!imposing!neoclassical!+acade!seems!to!loom!'p!to!the!le+t!o+!yo'r!-ody%! almost!hemming!yo'!inB!the!gorgeo's!e)ening!s6y!tr'ly!seems!to!ho)er!o)erheadB!the!people!scattered!across!the! -ottom!o+!the!painting!seem!to!+low!right!thro'gh!a!space!that!yo',re!in%!too.!

s!+loor!tiles%!or!pa)ing!stones%!or!architect're:! nstead ! o+!-eing!+oc'sed!on!a!point!in!the!middle!o+!the!hori<on%!li6e!the!photo!o+!receding!train!trac6s!that.!8he!artwor6s!that!they!-o'ght!wo'ld!o+ten!ha)e ! -een!6ept!in!so-called!/'nder6ammern%!1cham-ers!o+!wonders%1!alongside!an!almost!order-+ree!assortment!o+ ! st'++ed!crocodiles%!corals!that!loo6!li6e!praying!hands%!E!mar)elo'sly!car)ed!peach!pits.! 8he!'r-an!)iews!in! "Pride of Place"!aren.!8hey!went!cra<y!+or!ela-orate!peep-show!-oAes ! whose!trompe!l.s!+oregro'nd%!now!seems!li6e!a!long!channel!that!yo'r!ga<e!r'ns ! down!as!it!s6ims!along!the!ran6s!o+!*olland.s ! incl'ded!in!an!'r-an!reality.!3ome!near%!and!3'yp.9!8he!cityscapes!in!12ride ! o+!2lace1!are!meant!to!appeal!to!a!&'tch!taste!+or!coming!into!the!)ery!closest!contact!with!their!new%!la)ish%!st'+++illed!'r-an!reality!--!a!new!6ind!o+!-o'rgeois!world!that!5etherlanders!had!-een!-'ilding!since!aro'nd!"#00%!as ! this!show!ta6es!pains!to!eAplain.!8he!great!:aas% ! instead!o+!loo6ing!li6e!a!pool!in!the!painting.!And!they!o++er!?'st!the!6ind!o+!one-thing-a+ter-another!eAperience!7a!1paratactic1!one%! to!'se!the!term!o+!art9!that!the!grandest!&'tch!collectors!+a)ored.oeil!insides!were!meant!to!-e!)iewed!thro'gh!a!tiny!hole!--!pro)ing%!i+!nothing!else%!that!the!idea!o+! a!single%!1correct1!)iewing!point!+or!pict'res!was!commonplace!in!*olland!in!these!years.s!great!image!o+!the!:aas!Ri)er!at!&ordrecht%!+rom!the!5ational ! 4allery.s!18own!*all1!or!>osmaer.s!way!+arther!o)er!to!the!le+t!or!right.s!water%!-oats!and!s6ies!go!+rom!-eing!a!series!o+!stripes!rising!'p!across ! a!painted!s'r+ace%!as!we!moderns!tend!to!thin6!o+!them%!to!ta6ing!shape!as!a!world!receding!into!depth.!8hey!aren.! .s!well!'p!on!a!wall!all!to!itsel+%!and!yo'!only!ha)e!to!come!within!two!+eet!to!ma6e!it!wor69!and!>osmaer.s!edge%!it!loo6s!tremendo'sly!-i<arre.s!dead!in!+ront!o+!themB!8> ! and!mo)ie!cameras!always!do.s!own!holdings%!and!the!wide--eamed!ship!at!its!+ar!right!seems!almost!as!ro'nd!as!a!-arrel.re!not!always!as!-latant! a-o't!it!as!)an!der!*eyden.9! . ! 8hey ! are ! more ! li6e ! storage ! c'p-oards ! +or ! all ! the ! +ascinating ! plenty ! that.!8he!still!photographs!o'r!modern!eyes!are!trained!on!almost!always!show!what.s!1&el+t%1!-'t!once!yo'.!8hey.re!att'ned!to!the!techni.! n!0altimore%!the!/alters ! Art!:'se'm!has!re-created!s'ch!a!cham-er.s!always!'sed! to!eAplain!perspecti)e%!they!center!on!a!point!that.!:o)e!to!that!position!7the! pict're.!7Coo6!+or!the!receding!lines!in!a!pict're.t!1paintings1!at!all%!in!o'r!modern!sense!o+!artistic!compositions!meant!+or ! distanced% ! aesthetic ! contemplation.)en!pict'res!that!-arely!hint!at!their!perspecti)e!may!as6!yo'!to!sidle!cra--wise!'p!to!them.ntering!that!world!is%! !thin6%!the!tr'e!point!o+!these!pict'res.!Dnly!paintings!can!easily ! do!this.re!o+ten!descri-ed.!/hen!yo'!+irst!come!across!&aniel!>osmaer.! /ell!more!than!hal+!this!show.s!specially!assem-led!+leet!--!the!real!na)al!assem-ly%!+rom!('ly!"#4#% ! that!is!the!main!s'-?ect!o+!the!painting.s!designed!almost! receding!in!perspecti)e!to!the!le+t%!seem!to!soar!a-o)e!yo'%!'p!and!o't!o+!)iew.! 4et!close%!and!mo)e!o)er%!and!this!pict're.!Coo6!+rom!straight! ahead!and!se)eral!+eet!away!at!Ael-ert!3'yp.Dther!pict'res!similarly!+orce!yo'!to!mo)e!sideways.! ts ! sea!o+!weirdly!angled!lines!ris6s!gi)ing!yo'!the!spins.t!meant!only!as!wow-cool!demonstration! pieces%.! .!8hey!stop!seeming!li6e!a!per)ersely ! )acant!<one!across!the!top!o+!his!can)as%!as!they.s!cele-rated!clo'ds%!which!he.!78ho'gh!the!&'tch !did !ha)e!a!li6ing!+or!s'ch!things.!8a6e!the!ship ! in!+rom!m'ch!nearer!-'t!+ar!o)er!to!the!le+t%!+rom!a-o't!the!point!o+!)iew!o+!the!important!o++icials!-eing!rowed!to ! it%!and!this!lead!ship!s'ddenly!slims!down%!pro?ecting!o't!toward!yo'!and!almost!ready!to!pass!-y.s!cityscapes!--!as!well!as!a!s'rprisingly!large!percentage!o+!&'tch!still!li+es%!domestic ! scenes!and!architect'ral!interiors!--!are!constr'cted!with!a!)iew!+rom!o++!to!one!side.! ts!tiled!arcade!wraps!aro'nd!yo'%!and!&el+t!+eels!li6e!a!real!place!yo' ! co'ld!step!o't!to.s ! )iew!-ecomes!eAtra)agantly!ill'sionistic.'e%!it!pops ! 'p!again!and!again.!8he!scene!was!painted!as!tho'gh!o-ser)ed!+rom!low!down ! and!way!o++!to!the!le+t%!and!its!image!needs!to!-e!)iewed!+rom!there!to!ma6e!sense.s!)iew!o+!the ! s6yline!o+!&el+t%!as!glimpsed!thro'gh!the!archways!o+!a!pa)ilion!on!the!city.

li<a-eth ! E ! Allan ! Fhelden ! 3'rator ! o+ ! .yo't'-e.! n!-oth!cases%!their!matter!comes!distri-'ted!thro'gho't%!and!yo'!ha)e!to!ta6e!time!to!p'll ! o't!e)ery!separate!particle!o+!+act%!coming!close!eno'gh!to!dig!aro'nd!+or!them.'ropean!art! department ! E ! 8he ! .com/watch?)=36o09#/w98H .!8hat!+loor!also!seems!to!ta6e!'p!more!than!its!+air!share!o+! space!in!the!pict're.!8hat.!And!most!important%!yo'.'ite! s.t!trained ! to!)iew!a!pict're%!now.re!now!in?ected!right!into!)an!Dchter)elt.!All!yo'!ha)e!to!do!is!come!close!--!a!+ew!old ! images!s'r)i)e!that!show!&'tch!)iewers!with!their!noses!almost!'p!against!the!paintings!they.re!admiring!--!E ! e)erything!a-o't!them!starts!to!change.!As!a!completely!legi-le!s'r+ace%!more!than!as!an!arti+icial ! world!with!things!-'ried!inside.! 3'rator.!Grom!a!distance%!the!home.re!letting!these!pict'res!do!the!wor6!their!&'tch!masters!had!in!mind!+or!them.8he!6ind!o+!eAploratory!)iewing!that!&'tch!pict'res!in)ite!also!-rings!them!into!contact!with!other!o-?ects!incl'ded! in!this!show:!precio's!-oo6s%!allegorical!prints!and!atlases!o+!'r-an!maps!meant!to!ill'strate!the!special!lo)e!o+! cities!in!"$th-cent'ry!*olland.s!mar-le-tiled!+loor!seems!almost!tipped!'p!toward!'s% ! as!tho'gh!yo'.&.'ropean ! 2ainting ! at ! the ! &etroit ! nstit'te ! o+ ! Arts! http://www.s!whimsical!scene%!with!yo'r! attention!--!and!yo'r!identi+ication!--!+orced!to!oscillate!-etween!the!satin-clad!-'rghers!and!the!-eggars!at!their! door.!8he!way!these!period!arti+acts!present!their!teeming!contents!parallels!the!way!this ! show.'are.s!paintings!wor6.t!e)en!seem!.!8hey!get!'s!to!pl'nge! deep!inside!a!crowded!world%!+'ll!o+!st'++!to!-e!eAplored%!rather!than!simply!standing!-ac6!to!ta6e!in!a!pretty ! pict're.s!composition!now!ta6es!place!in!space!and!across! time%!+rom!near!to!+ar!and!side!to!side!as!yo'! slowly!eAplore!its!scene%!rather!than!all!at!once!across!its!+lat!s'r+ace.s!worth!ta6ing!another!loo6!at!e)en!the!most!normal-loo6ing!paintings!in!this ! show%!-y!s'ch!well-6nown!+ig'res!as!2ieter!de!*ooch!E!(an!Fteen.s!length%!or!an!image!in!a!-oo6%!or!e)en!a!color ! reprod'ction!o+!an!Dld!:aster!painting!pro?ected!on!a!screen!at!the!+ront!o+!a!classroom:!/e!ta6e!them!in!at!once% ! +rom!edge-to-edge%!as!a!6ind!o+!integrated!pac6age.%!head!o+!the!.s!?'st!how!we!aren.s!composition.s! "Street Musicians in the Doorway of a House" o++ers!a!whole!new!eAperience.s!2erspecti)e:!Rem-randt!E!the!&'tch!4olden!Age!Fal)ador!Falort-2ons%!2h.!8he!pict're.!3ome!m'ch! closer!to!the!pict're%!howe)er%!and!all!o+!this!comes!right:!8he!+loor!now!seems!-elow!yo'%!eAtending!+orward!at ! 90!degrees!to!yo'r!-odyB!the!angles!o+!its!tiles!s'ddenly!correct!themsel)esB!what!loo6ed!li6e!an!eAcess!eApanse!o+! +loor!disappears.! Gor!once%!we.d!ha)e!to!wal6!'phill!to!get!o't!the!+ront!doorB!the!tiles!in!its!near!corners!don.!8hin6!o+!a!little!snapshot!held!at!arm.! Fo!now%!with!all!this!in!mind%!it.! A!seemingly!straight+orward!pict're!s'ch!as!(aco-!)an!Dchter)elt.