My Visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the exhibition that I chose to further examine was the In Praise of Painting: Dutch Masterpieces at the Met. This exhibition highlights the works of Rembrandt, Hals, and Vermeer. The works presented in the exhibition were from the Dutch golden age which occurred during the 17th century. The exhibition represents a new take and perspective on this era of art history. The exhibition illustrates the pervasive issues permeating throughout 17th century Dutch society.

The issues mainly centered on debates regarding religion and conspicuous consumption as well as the artists’ interests concerning the domestic lives of women.

Domesticity motif within Dutch art

Domesticity was a significant motif within Dutch art from this period. All expressions of artistic ability and creativity were centered in the home such as music, painting and architecture. As a result, there was no large or grand scale sculptures or painting. Art taking place in the home placed certain boundaries and restrictions on the art that could be produced at the very least in regard to its size.

The art from this period also placed importance and value on all things being from God. The placement of paintings and works in this exhibition underscores the conflict between realism and idealism occurring during this period. The exhibitions namesake is taken from Phillips Angel’s “The Praise of Painting” (1642) which was a work from the period about art theory and seeks to defend realism in art.

Young Herdsmen with Cows

One of the works of art that stood out to me was the Young Herdsmen with Cows.

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This work of art was painted by Aelbert Cuyp sometime between ca. 1655-60. This painting utilizes oil on canvas as a medium. Obviously, this painted is now located within the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Dutch exhibition. The art has gone through multiple transfers of ownership once owned by Rodolphe Kann in Paris until 1905 and was eventually sold to Duveen, London in 1907 where it resided until 1908 when Benjamin Altman in New York. The dimensions of this painting are about 44 1/8 x 52 1/8 in. or 112.1 x 132.4 cm. This art immediately struck me on from an aesthetic standpoint for a plethora of reasons.

For one thing the use of animals draws my eye almost immediately simply because I find them a much more fascinating subject works of art rather than people or humans themselves. I feel that people are so often the topic of art and I find them ordinary so any art work that is able to better encapsulate and display the beauties of nature is always more striking to me. One thing that also struck me about this painting was the way in which the landscape was handled. I liked the way the reflection of light in the sky and on clouds indicated the time of day and the way the weather was that day. This indicated within the museum label/plaque “Sun-streaked clouds scudding across the sky dominate this placid landscape, a classic example of the luminous style that made Cuyp a beloved artist among eighteenth and nineteenth century collectors.” This painting also goes along with the theme of domesticity in Dutch art being that it is simply herders on a seemingly average day with their cows taking in the scenery and nature. There is nothing truly extravagant the beauty of the work is in its simplicity.

The work is in generally good condition and shows no signs of any damage. The work is displayed in gallery 965 in an ornate frame against the wall. This particular work is representational as it does not possess any abstract characteristics. The prevailing axis in this work is vertical axis. When it comes to volume this works makes use of irregular three-dimensional forms as it is more organic and life like rather than more conventional geometric forms. The way in which the work presents space is the surrounding space interpenetrating. The work has open silhouette/composition as most landscape paintings due to the goal of impressing the viewer with an elaborate, artistic landscape. The color and light of this painting seemingly go hand in hand. Cuyp has a very concrete idea how he would like the light to be presented in that it can be spotted in the clouds as well as the sky in the form of reflection. The subject of this painting conveys the ideas and theme of this period in that it was based in realism and seemingly in mundaneness. The art was focused on a still-life landscape which is common for artwork during this period. The art displays a genre scene which exhibits activities from everyday life while playing attention to smaller details.

Woodland Road by Meyndert Hobeema

The next painting that caught my eye was the Woodland Road painted by Meyndert Hobeema in ca. 1670. The painting was painted with oil on canvas. The dimensions of the painting 37 ¼ x 51 in or 94.6 x 129.5 cm. The painting is in good condition and is displayed on the wall in a decorative frame. The reason this painting caught my eye was the fact that it was mainly focused on the picturesque landscape as opposed to the much smaller in comparison people that are also found walking with their dog in the painting. This painting makes use of light and color to by displaying light on the foliage. As can be read in the museum label “In the dense trees, daubs of many different colors of paint evoke light on foliage.” This painting is a good example of artwork during this period as it portrays a seemingly normal occurrence of people walking through a farmland and marshland area with their family dog. This art corresponds with the ongoing motifs of domesticity and realism present throughout Dutch Art.

Forms and surrounding space in this work do in fact interpenetrate. Hobeema makes good use of space and line in this work as there is seemingly a divide in between the marshland as well as the farmland. This idea also continues beyond the landscape to the human subjects with the divide between the travelers and the woman seemingly watching them from the farmhouse door. Again, there is nothing abstract or really awe inspiring, with this painting at least in terms of imagination. This painting’s real beauty is in its simplicity and ordinary nature. It is a depiction of a very visually appealing landscape with none of the people within it doing anything particularly interesting. This work was purchased and resold by various collectors throughout London before eventually making its way to New York. Clearly, as said before the painting now resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 Castle by a River

The final piece of artwork I decided to look more into and further analyze was the painting Castle by a River. The work was painted by Jan van Goyen in 1647. The work was created via oil on wood. The dimensions of the painting are 26 x 38 ¼ in or 66 x 97.2 cm. This work has traveled throughout parts of England, Germany, and France changing hands with multiple art collector before landing in its current place at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The work is generally in good condition and is presented against a wall in a decorative frame. The artwork depicts a scene of fisherman casting their net in front of a castle’s moat. Goyen beautifully molds color and as a result light together as can be seen in the skyline as the way it is painted makes it seem as if the sun is in the process of setting toward the end of a long day or if the sun is in the process of rising in early dawn. The main reason this particular work of art caught my attention was the fact that there was a castle present. That drew my eyes in then I found myself enamored by the sky and landscape. Working on the surface of an oak panel afforded Goyen certain opportunities that may not be present on the pedestrian canvas. As seen in the museum label “the smooth surface of an oak panel allowed Van Goyen to achieve a variety of painterly effects and enliven a limited color palette as he evoked crumbling masonry, rippling water, or cottony clouds.” This work of art is less simple then the previous works I discussed however, it is less ornate or extravagant then works from other periods. This artwork makes use of space to perhaps represent the divide between the blue collar, working class fishermen as well as the elite that one could imagine to be residing inside the moat protected castle. The fact that their place of residence is protected by a moat compared to individuals that likely fish to feed their families as well as make a living.

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My Visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (2022, Mar 10). Retrieved from

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