An Inner World: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting

Exhibition Website

Mar 5 2016 - Oct 1 2017

Clark Art Institute

Williamstown, MA

An Inner World features seven exceptional genre paintings by Dutch artists working in or near the city of Leiden in the seventeenth century. Genre paintings, or scenes that take everyday life as their subject matter, flourished in the Dutch Republic in this period. Explored through the theme of an inner world, the works in this focused exhibition represent figures in interior spaces and individuals in moments of study, contemplation, and quiet exchange. Paintings by Gerrit Dou (1613–1675), Gabriel Metsu (1629–1667), Domenicus van Tol (c. 1635–1676), Willem van Mieris (1662–1747), and Jacob van Toorenvliet (1640–1719) demonstrate the artists’ sustained interest in the illusionism of space, candlelight, and painted surfaces. By encouraging a focused—and intimate—experience, this exhibition presents new ways of looking at tradition and innovation in genre painting in Leiden.

In the seventeenth century, the city of Leiden became known as a center of fijnschilders, or fine painters, as a result of the innovations in subject matter and technique developed by Gerrit Dou. One of the most admired and successful artists in Holland, Dou established a manner of “fine” painting in small-scale, meticulously rendered works, often depicting figures set in an illusionistic stone niche. Included in this exhibition is the Clark’s newly restored Woman at a Window (c. 1655), which displays Dou’s precise brushwork, evocative use of light and shadow, and brilliant handling of different surface textures. An Inner World is the first exhibition to display the Clark’s painting with genre scenes by Dou’s contemporaries, presenting the opportunity to consider how artists responded to and modified Dou’s themes and painting style. 

An Inner World brings together paintings from the Clark’s collection and The Leiden Collection, a private collection in New York. Installed in an intimate gallery within the Clark’s permanent collection galleries, it complements and enhances the Clark’s sixteenth- and seventeenth-century cabinet paintings by Dutch, Flemish, and Italian artists.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.

  • Painting
  • European
  • 15th - 17th Century
  • Genre / Domestic / Interiors
  • Gerrit Dou
  • and others

Exhibition Venues & Dates