Mauritshuis: Rembrandt van Rijn's "Self-Portrait as a Young Man," an elegant reflection of the artist at 23, is lightyears away from his unsparing 1669 self-portrait, a pockmarked vision with a turban coveringwhat X-rays show was once a painter's cap. The two are amoung 40 works on view beginning Friday at the National Gallery's East Building, in "Mauritshuis: Dutch Paintings of the Golden Age from the Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague."
Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals (represented by his playful "Head of a Young Boy"), Jan Steen and other 17th-century Dutch masters are presented in a rich and varied exhibit. Luminous still lifes are sprinkled among banquet scenes, townscapes, portraits, haunting seascapes (including ships chronicled by Willem van de Velde the Younger as a war reporter) and Biblical and mythological scenes.
Depictions of ordinary events, a Dutch and Flemish specialty, are capped by a scene of revelry and feasting in Steen's "The Way You Hear It Is the Way You Sing It," a huge masterpiece with a sense of humor. The title is an old Dutch rhyme; the wild family scene in the painting has come to represent a type: "a Jan Steen household" remains an epithet for an unruly home.
Probably the show offers more than we want to know about the Mauritshuis, built around 1640 as a residence for the son of Prince Willem the Silent of the House of Orange, a museum since 1822. Photos of the building hang beside a plug for the Royal Picture Gallery as "a rewarding museum experience." But see Washington first: these 40 examples are here through October in honor of the 200th aniversary of Dutch-American diplomatic relations. MAURITSHUIS: PAINTINGS OF THE GOLDEN AGE -- At the National Gallery of Art's East Building through October 31. DE STIJL: According to Piet Mondrian, "Art is only a substitute while the beauty of life is still deficient. It will disappear in proportion as life gains in equilibrium."
Art is still very much present in the Hirshhorn's sprawling exhibition, "De Stijl: 1917- 1931, Visions of Utopia." The 250 objects embody the Dutch movement's philosophy of art, architecture and design, allowing the viewer to walk through re-creations of buildings, past furniture and among paintings all in the familiar, spare patterns of black lines, right angles, planes and primary colors.
Total abstraction was revolutionary when first expressed in the magazine De Stijl in 1917. The art of "The Style" was a step ahead of life, controlling nature, shaking up the public. And its influence was pervasive. Geometric mosaics in red, yellow and blue created a universe from patterned tile floors to logos to Gerrit Rietveld's chairs, which are Mondrian paintings in 3-D. The cinema- dance hall from Theo van Doesburg's Cafe Aubette, a 1926 expression of De Stijl in Strasbourg, is recreated with period slides and blues singers on tape setting the mood. Photos of Mondrian's studio and a model of a stage set he designed share van Doesburg's viewpoint in "Composition with Colors in the Fourth Dimension of Space and Time."
A chonological chart puts De Stijl in context with cubism, Dada and surrealism in a handsome $25 catalog of the show. DE STIJL: VISIONS OF UTOPIA -- At the Hirshhorn through June 27.