The Visible World: Samuel van Hoogstraten's Art Theory and the Legitimation of Painting in the Dutch Golden Age (Amsterdam Studies in the Dutch Golden Age)

The Visible World: Samuel van Hoogstraten's Art Theory and the Legitimation of Painting in the Dutch Golden Age (Amsterdam Studies in the Dutch Golden Age)

Thijs Weststeijn

Language: English

Pages: 512

ISBN: 9089640274

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Visible World explores the writings of Dutch painter and poet Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627–78)—one of Rembrandt’s pupils—and clarifies his use of painterly themes and theory from the Dutch Golden Age. Van Hoogstraten drew on a variety of literary, philosophical, and artistic sources, as well as from history and travel accounts, in writing has magnum opus, Introduction to the Academy of Painting; or the Visible World (1678) a cross-section of general seventeenth-century views on art in Holland. Questioning the motives of artists represented by van Hoogstraten’s theory, as well as the contested issues behind Dutch realism and its hidden symbolism, author Thijs Weststeijn provides an ambitious overview of seventeenth-century painting through the eyes of contemporary Dutch artists from the age.

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someone who inclined to any specific school of philosophy, such as (Neo)Platonism, Aristotelism or rationalism. In developing his theory, he read authors ranging from Agrippa von Nettesheim, Paracelsus and Ficino, all of whom adhered to an analogical world view in which ‘everything relates to everything’ within a hierarchical order, to authors espousing empiricist ideas and the ‘new philosophy’ such as Francis Bacon and Descartes. As will become clear, the art theory of the Inleyding contains

Accordingly, Huygens writes that if a viewer is shown a painting of Medusa that is normally kept behind a curtain, ‘he will be shocked by the sudden terror’ of the confrontation, but at the same time undergo the moving experience of its vivid lifelikeness.176 This practice indicates just how literally the comparison c h ap t e r i i i           153 Visible world HR kopy.indd 153 09-10-2008 17:12:41 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

the natural world on which he bases his depictions. Similarly, Junius refers to the viewer’s reaction to a work of art as an ‘incomprehensible pleasure’; the viewer is supposedly ‘speechless’, or cast into a dream world. He describes how ‘great rings of amazed spectators together’ are led ‘into an astonished extasie, their sense of seeing bereaving them of all other senses; which by a secret veneration maketh them stand c h ap t e r i i i           157 Visible world HR kopy.indd 157

‘a g rat i fyi n g i n dul gence in disparate parities’ Returning to the tension between imitatio auctoris and imitatio naturae, we still need to answer the question: what is the importance of studying other masters’ works in this doctrine that revolves around conjuring up a virtual reality? The theory concerning the importance of the 162          p ictorial imitation Visible world HR kopy.indd 162 09-10-2008 17:13:12 imagination, the role of the viewer, and the fading away of the work of

of nature is captured in his art (Mireveldii omnis in natura ars est, omnis in arte natura) ... When one looks at his actions, one sees that they echo his manner of painting. In the treatment of difficult subjects his behaviour, attitude and language are plain’.70 All these ideas derive from the rhetorical conviction that naturalness has the greatest power to persuade: qualis vir, talis oratio.71 The performative nature of a painter’s style or actio leads Jacob Campo Weyerman a few decades later

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