The current selection of works on paper - ranging from ‘première pensées’ and studies in pencil or ink to highly finished works of art in their own right - was gathered over a period of several years, culminating in this selling exhibition, opening at the gallery in the spring of 2018. In the course of these past years, a number of works on paper that would have made great additions to the current exhibition have found their way to various private and institutional clients. I thank all of them (you know who you are!) for putting their trust in my expertise.
The works illustrated in this catalogue have now been gathered at our premises for the show, but I trust many of the sheets will also find their way into various collections across the globe soon. In that case, this catalogue will have to do as a humble memento of this particular moment in time. This selection of ‘northern’ works includes mostly works by Dutch and Flemish artists, with the occasional German thrown in. The division of artists into these geographical ‘schools’ should, however, always be taken with a grain of salt, as most of them were avid travellers - Flemish artists from the sixteenth century onwards viewed the obligatory trip to Italy almost as a pilgrimage - and were continuously being influenced by each other’s work. How to classify, for instance, the artist Friedrich Sustris, who was born in Padua, of Dutch descent, and who went on to study and work in Rome, Augsburg and Munich?
Collecting works on paper is quite different from collecting paintings. The lower price point gives more people the opportunity to get involved, as works by important masters are still to be had for relatively modest sums. In addition, the directness and spontaneity of lines drawn or painted on thick sheets of laid paper allows the modern viewer to get a rare insight in the creative process of these artists, whose works often display a striking modernity. It is difficult not to think of a Damien Hirst print when looking at Johannes Bronckhorst’s highly detailed studies of butterflies, while some of Cornelis Schut’s free-flowing sketches bring to mind James Ensor’s drawing style.
The subject matter of the exhibited works ranges from landscapes and mythological themes to botanical, animal and architectural studies, as well as the odd seascape and a few religious works. Together they showcase the broad interests of northern artists from the middle of the sixteenth to the late eighteenth century. It has been a great joy to discover, acquire, research and present the present selection of works. I do sincerely hope looking at them will provide you with at least as much pleasure.
Download our 2018 exhibition catalogue Northern Works on Paper here.