Buytewech, Goltzius, van der Scheer and Zwaan! Rembrandt van Rijn and then some. The Dutch invasion of Washington continues this weekend with two exhibits marking the bicentennial of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Netherlands.
"Dutch Figure Drawings from the 17th Century," the first of two related shows at the National Gallery, opens Sunday in the East Building. The 117 works (14 by Rembrandt) offer a break from the period's usual landscapes and cows, focusing instead on the human figure.
And these are real people, not kings and queens, gods and goddesses. "Saskia Sitting by the Window," one of Rembrandt's drawings of his wife in pen and brush with brown ink, captures shadows, an expression and skin tone in a single brushstroke. Hendrick Goltzius' reclining nude girl is clearly drawn from a live model. The show moves from nervous portrayals of figures in mannered poses (heavy on muscle) and costumes, to calmer, more realistic views of plain folks.
In two instances drawings are exhibited as part of a process: Four drawings surround a painting, "The Hut" by Adriaen van de Velde, as preparatory studies for a final -- more ornate -- product. Jan van der Heyden's drawing and counterproof of a burned house are accompanied by a more detailed etching of the scene. (He also was the inventor a new type of fire engine.)
Meanwhile, at Meridian House, "Reality Revisited" complements an outdoor display of Holland's "Madurodam Village."
Works by six contemporary Dutch painters have different styles but share a sensitivity to that peculiar Low Country light. Henk Helmantel uses it to illuminate such classic subjects as church interiors and still lifes. His light reflecting off a wine goblet is palpable. Rein Pol's subjects are mundane -- raw cod, weedy chicory, masterful eggs -- yet he can make a pig preserved in a bottle look almost pretty. Pit van Loo, oldest of the group at 77, captures the lonely, endlessly flat land- and seascapes of northern Holland, at once beautiful and depressing.
"DUTCH FIGURE DRAWINGS FROM THE 17th CENTURY" -- At the National Gallery of Art's East Building, Fourth and Constitution Avenue NW, Sunday through June 13.
"REALITY REVISITED" -- At Meridian House, 1630 Crescent Place NW, through May 20.