Master Class: Northern European Art 1500–1700 from the Permanent Collection, on view at The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, April 27–September 2, 2018
The exhibition opens with a panel discussion on Friday, April 27 at 4:30pm in Taylor Hall 102, followed by a reception in the Art Center. These events are free and open to the public.
The exhibition, curated by Elizabeth Nogrady, was organized to celebrate the career of Susan Donahue Kuretsky, Vassar College Class of 1963 and Professor of Art.
“Susan Kuretsky has spent more than forty years at Vassar introducing students to the art of Northern Europe, through her captivating lectures in Art 105/106 as well as her 200-level courses and seminars, many of them held in the Art Center,” said Nogrady. “After serving as acting director of the Vassar College Art Gallery in 1990/1, Susan has been among the museum’s most ardent faculty collaborators and we are delighted to honor her contributions with this exhibition.”
Master Class is composed primarily of drawings and prints by Dutch, Flemish, and German artists from the Art Center’s collection. The works displayed—which include an etching of a lively self-portrait by Rembrandt, an engraving of a dancing couple by Albrecht Dürer, and a new acquired original drawing by Jacob Jordaens—are organized roughly by their date of acquisition. This arrangement illuminates the dynamic relationship between the museum and the classroom at Vassar, as well as its connection to the larger story of Northern European art in the United States from the 1860s to today.
The Golden Age in the Gilded Age (1864–1945)
This gallery contains sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Northern European works given to Vassar between the founding of the college and 1945. The earliest such gifts, mostly Old Master prints of biblical scenes, came from the collection of the Reverend Elias Magoon, a college trustee and founding member of the Committee on the Art Gallery. In the United States more generally, the period 1865–1914 was a heyday for the collecting of Northern European art, particularly from the seventeenth-century Netherlands. This trend contributed to strong support for public museums, most of which were still relatively new. At Vassar, alumnae and donors began giving works to the Vassar College Art Gallery and in 1941 a transformative gift, comprised of prints by preeminent masters such as Dürer, Lucas van Leyden, and Rembrandt, arrived from the family of German-born financier Felix M. Warburg. Throughout this period, students learned the history of art from these objects. As early as 1865, Helen Seymour wrote to her father, “I am more than satisfied with my new school . . . I wish you could see the Library, Art Gallery, Geological rooms, etc. I spent the morning looking at some beautiful books of engravings[;] you can amuse yourself here any way you please.”
New Arrivals and New Purchases (1945–1992)
The mid-twentieth century was an exciting period for the use of original objects in art historical education at Vassar. The college experienced an influx of new faculty members, many of them German émigrés who had fled Europe to escape the rise of Nazism and World War II. This wave of art historians transformed the field in the United States, particularly in the area of Northern European art. During the academic year 1969–70, Wolfgang Stechow of Oberlin College served as visiting professor, organizing with students at the Vassar College Art Gallery the major loan exhibition Dutch Mannerism, Apogee and Epilogue and in 1976 Curtis O. Baer curated Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape Drawings and Selected Prints from American Collections, also at the Art Gallery. Further bolstering the presence of German, Dutch, and Flemish art on campus were purchases made by the Art Gallery, some of which are on display in the exhibition, to augment the gifts that had characterized the previous generation. As the collection and exhibition program grew, it became clear that more space was needed. In 1986 and 1988 the college held symposia, both called Museums in Academe, to create a public forum on the function, funding, and design of college and university museums in advance of Vassar embarking on the construction of a new museum building.
Breaking New Ground (1993–2018)
In 1993 the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center opened, and with it came new opportunities for the collection, display, and study of Northern European art. On a grander scale, projects at the Art Center continued to relate to material taught in the classroom: a course on ruins in Dutch art (examples of which are on view) fueled the innovative 2005 exhibition organized by Susan Donahue Kuretsky, Time and Transformation in Seventeenth-Century Art. Meanwhile, as the physical form of the museum changed at Vassar, so too did the academic field of Northern European art as efforts were made to widen and diversify the field. A commitment to the interaction of art history with other disciplines, for instance, is evident in the current Vassar seminar Art and Science in the Age of Vermeer. Questions raised in the classroom on scientific and artistic observation can be brought to bear on the museum’s collection, including the precise anatomy of Large Cat by Cornelis Visscher or the optical effects captured in Saint Mark by Lucas van Leyden. Study of original objects remains relevant given that, even as the connoisseurship of the 1900s recedes, the fields of technical art history and art conservation remain unquestionably dynamic, particularly in the field of Northern European art. Several recent acquisitions reveal fascinating aspects of artists’ working processes, among them Abraham Jansz. van Diepenbeeck’s Mass of Saint Gregory (a design for an engraving) and Jordaens’s Annunciation (with additions to the sheet made by the artist). While these objects have remained largely unchanged from the 1500s and 1600s, their use in teaching has evolved many times, a tradition which shows no sign of abating.
About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with an art museum as a part of its original plans, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections. The Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 21,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th-century painters.
Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free and all galleries are wheelchair accessible. The Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00am–5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am–9:00pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00pm. Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion. For additional information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.
Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage.
Directions to the Vassar campus, located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.
Vassar College is a coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.
Posted by Office of Communications Tuesday, March 27, 2018