press release

Masterly! Four Centuries of Drawing and Painting
07.12.2019 - 29.03.2020

From Saturday 7 December, the Kunsthal Rotterdam will be presenting ‘Masterly!’, a grand retrospective of four centuries of paintings and drawings from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen collection. In over 150 works, the exhibition showcases the mastery of 27 artists who all excel in both art forms. It features work by famous masters such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Gogh, Delacroix, Pissarro, Saenredam, Goltzius and Basquiat, but also by lesser-known artists, including the Dutchmen Cornelis Saftleven and Josephus Augustus Knip. ‘Masterly!’ highlights the special relationship between drawing and painting and reveals the great masters’ love of drawing.

“The drawings give us an insight into the mind of the artist. They are often rapidly sketched and show everyday subjects – a landscape, a playing child. Drawings have a directness that transcends all times, much more so than well thought-out paintings. You will only get a really good impression of the artist when you combine their drawings and paintings.”
– Friso Lammertse, curator of old master paintings and sculptures at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Guest curator Friso Lammertse has connected artists right throughout the centuries and arranged them into groups. Sometimes this connection originates from an art-historical perspective, but more often the starting point is the artists’ approach to their work. This leads to some extraordinary combinations. For instance, between Cuyp and Knip, who were both searching for the Italian light. Or the straightforward, unadorned portrayal of human beings, as shown by Rembrandt and Breitner. The eventful, short lives of Van Gogh and Basquiat, and their huge importance to art history. The ‘unbearable weight of being’ in the works of Westerik and Beckmann. And Claude Lorrain, Barend C. Koekkoek, Jacoba van Heemskerck, and Camille Pissarro, who are all connected by the landscape. In the exhibition, the work of the draughtsman, engraver and painter Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) is the point of departure for many interesting combinations; he was one of the first artists to introduce drawing as an autonomous art form.

Flower still lifes by Mondriaan
The exhibition contains many highlights and surprises and is a paradise for lovers of drawing and painting. Not only because of the large number of works – a number of which are shown for the first time, such as the drawings by Basquiat –, but also because it enables the visitors to make many discoveries. The drawings seem to bring us closer to the artist, and are often much freer and more intimate than the paintings we know of these masters. Some artists that we strongly associate with the art of painting, such as the French painter Jean Antoine Watteau, turn out to have an even greater talent for drawing. Also noteworthy are Mondrian’s flower still life drawings that place him in an entirely different light. The exhibition covers an enormous range and takes the visitor on a journey from Edgar Degas’ ballet dancer and Max Beckmann’s portrait of the Lütjens family, to a drawing of a young woman that Peter Paul Rubens made towards the end of his life.

Boijmans Next Door
The exhibition is part of Boijmans Next Door, a city-wide project to keep the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen visible during its renovation. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has one of the most important collections of drawings in the world, although it is rarely shown because of its sensitivity to light. For the exhibition ‘Masterly!’ at the Kunsthal, a selection of the most beautiful works on paper is taken out of the depot for a short period of time, and will subsequently be hidden away again for years.