Joslyn Art Museum Unveils New Frame for Rembrandt’s Portrait of Dirck van Os

On November 8, 2016, at a special reception honoring past presidents of the Joslyn Art Museum Association (JAMA), the Museum presented its Rembrandt Portrait of Dirck van Os (ca. 1658) in a seventeenth-century Dutch style frame. The portrait was previously displayed in a carved and gilded French Louis XIV frame, which accompanied the picture when it was acquired by the Museum in 1942 from Schneider-Gabriel Galleries in New York City. The recent conservation of the picture, which placed the portrait firmly among Rembrandt’s late autograph works, and preparation for the reinstallation of Joslyn’s European galleries, set to begin early next year, prompted the decision to replace the frame with a more historically appropriate and aesthetically suitable selection.

Extensive research into the history of Dutch frames was conducted and several prominent framers in both New York City and London were consulted on the project. Due to the rarity of antique Dutch frames meeting the size requirements of the painting, the decision was made to commission a reproduction of an original design. The frame was generously funded by JAMA, a group that also contributed to the painting’s conservation in 2013. Rembrandt’s Portrait of Dirck van Os is on view in Joslyn’s Hitchcock Gallery (gallery 3).

About the Frame

Very few paintings in museum collections retain their original frames. Former owners and cultural institutions frequently changed frames according to prevailing contemporary taste. The former Louis XIV frame surrounding Joslyn’s Rembrandt portrait, characterized by ornate carving and gilding with varying patterns and scrollwork, detracted from the sobriety and dignity of the sitter. Seventeenth-century Dutch frames are less ornate than Italian and French examples of the same period, relying on the warm black and brown tonalities of the wood and the use of broad, flat, and curved surfaces to reflect light rather than ornate carving and gilding. This more restrained style reflects the conservative Protestant atmosphere of the Netherlands as well as the strong mercantile culture in which exotic and expensive wood, such as ebony, were imported through the Dutch East India Company. While examples of French Louis XIV frames were available in Holland after midcentury, the use of dark ebony frames was much more prevalent.

Dirck van Os III (1590-1668) was the Dijkgraaf, or commissioner, of the Beemster north of Amsterdam, a low-lying stretch of land that had been reclaimed from a former lake. Aged 70 at the time of this portrait, Van Os had been in the position for 40 years and was an honored member of the community. Rembrandt renders the respected elder with sensitivity, imbuing Van Os with an inner presence and quiet authority by means of pose, expressive brushwork, and evocative contrasts of light and shade. The new frame both enhances and complements Van Os’s high status and the distinguished manner he projects while providing a balanced historical perspective.

Click here to read more about Rembrandt's Portrait of Dirck van Os.

Art Out & About

Jackson Pollock’s Galaxy (left) has been removed from view and will soon be at the Kunstmuseum Basel (Basel, Switzerland) for the exhibition The Figurative Pollock (October 2, 2016 through January 22, 2017). The exhibition presents a representative survey of the evolution of Pollock's figurative art from the mid-1930s to the 1950s in altogether around one hundred paintings and works on paper.

In the meantime, watch for new and exciting works from Joslyn’s collection and from temporary loans in the Contemporary Galleries.

What's pictured: (left) Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956), Galaxy, 1947, oil and aluminum paint on canvas, Gift of Peggy Guggenheim, 1949.164; (below) William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916), Sunlight and Shadow, 1884, oil on canvas, Gift of the Friends of Art, 1932.4
William Merrit Chase's Sunlight and Shadow (below) is on view at Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., in William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master. The exhibition, which marks the centennial of Chase’s death, explores his role as both an outspoken champion of American art and an active participant in the international art scene in Europe. Portraying a couple at afternoon tea in the garden of a home in Zandvoort, Holland, Sunlight and Shadow is one of Chase’s earliest forays into plein-air painting. Light cascades through a canopy of trees, casting dazzling patterns across the couple — Chase's friend, the painter Robert Blum, and a young woman reclining in a hammock — captured in what appears to be a fraught conversation. On view in Washington, D.C., through September, the exhibition will then travel to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from October 2016 to January 2017, before its final venue at the Ca’Pesaro Galleria Internazionale d’Art Moderna in Venice from February to May 2017.

The Maximilian Journals

Between 1832-34, the explorer and naturalist Prince Alexander Philipp Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, Germany, embarked on a voyage into the furthest reaches of the American Interior. Accompanied by the Swiss artist Karl Bodmer, Maximilian set forth from St. Louis in April 1833 on a 2,500 mile journey by steamship and keelboat up the Missouri River, traveling as far as Fort McKenzie, Montana. Wintering at the Mandan village near Fort Clark, they returned downriver the following spring, having spent over a year amongst the tribes of the Upper Missouri. The watercolors that Bodmer produced on this journey remain one of the most perceptive and compelling visual accounts of the West ever created. Meanwhile, his patron Maximilian was equally hard at work on a journal documenting his scientific and anthropologic observations. Few historical chronicles are as informative and eloquent, describing the topography, Native peoples, natural history, and the burgeoning fur trade of the High Plains. Today, Maximilian’s journals are a centerpiece of the Joslyn collection, accompanied by his collection of over 350 watercolors and drawings by Karl Bodmer. 

Joslyn Art Museum recently announced the milestone publication of the third and final volume of the English translation of The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied, one of the most important documents of the nineteenth-century American West. Volumes 1 and 2 were published in 2008 and 2010 respectively. In 2008, Volume 1 was named the "Outstanding Nonfiction Book" of the year by National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. In the fall of 2011, Volume 1 received the Western History Association’s Dwight L. Smith Award, a biennial award recognizing outstanding bibliographic or research work. Earlier in 2011, Volumes 1 and 2 were reviewed by Stuart Ferguson of The Wall Street Journal, who called the works a "magnificent chronicle."

The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied — Volume 1: May 1832–April 1833;
Volume 2: April–September 1833; and Volume 3: September 1833–August 1834 are available in Joslyn Art Museum’s Hitchcock Museum Shop for $85 per volume. The Journals are edited by Stephen S. Witte and Marsha V. Gallagher. Volumes 1 and 2 are translated by William J. Orr, Paul Schach, and Dieter Karch with forewords by John Wilson. Volume 3 is translated by Dieter Karch with a foreword by Joslyn’s Executive Director and CEO Jack Becker.

Support for the Maximilian Journals Project has come from many sources. Robert Daugherty funded the completion of the translation in 2003. The Bodmer Society, Charles W. Durham, and Marlene and J. Joe Ricketts made timely contributions to support initial editing and production costs. Dorothy and Stanley M. Truhlsen, Arader Galleries, Ann and Steve Berzin, Judy and Terry Haney, Susan and Michael Lebens, Pinnacle Bank, and Phyllis and Del Toebben provided additional support. Joslyn was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the University of Oklahoma Press received funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Ultimately, however, it has been the extremely generous gifts of Howard L. and Rhonda A. Hawks and The Hawks Foundation that have made this important publication possible.