Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, 'Self-portrait as the apostle Paul', 1661 (detail). Rijksmuseum, de Bruijn-van der Leeuw Bequest, Muri, Switzerland.

SYDNEY.- It’s one of the most exciting episodes in art history, and one that still delights today. In the 17th century Dutch Republic – a newly wealthy and independent nation – the art of painting flourished like never before. Dutch artists sensitively observed the beauty of the world around them, transforming it with great skill into vivid and compelling paintings, from intense portraits and dramatic seascapes, to tranquil scenes of domestic life and careful studies of fruit and flowers. 

The first major exhibition of Dutch masters in Sydney, Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age: Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum, comprises 78 exceptional works of art from the renowned Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, as part of the Sydney International Art Series 2017-2018. 

Art Gallery of New South Wales director Dr Michael Brand said the close collaboration with the Rijksmuseum – the museum with the finest and most representative collection of Netherlandish art in the world – has enabled the Gallery to show art from Holland at its best. 


Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, 'Self-portrait as the apostle Paul', 1661, Rijksmuseum, De Bruijn-van der Leeuw Bequest, Muri, Switzerland.

The Rijksmuseum is the jewel in the crown of the Netherlands’ cultural institutions and this exhibition offers visitors an exceptional opportunity to experience the Dutch masters, in particular Rembrandt and Vermeer, the two geniuses of Dutch art,” Brand said. 

Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbits said the museum was delighted that exceptional examples of the nation’s centuries-old works of Dutch art will be experienced by visitors to the Art Gallery of New South Wales this summer. 

The Dutch masters are still relevant today as art lovers around the world know, so I’m very pleased that visitors to the Art Gallery of NSW, including a new generation of Australians, will have the opportunity to meet the artworks of Rembrandt and many other masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age,” Dibbits said. 


Jan Davidsz de Heem, 'Still life with flowers in a glass vase', 1650, Rijksmuseum, on loan from the City of Amsterdam (A van der Hoop Bequest)

Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age presents a richly unfolding panorama of Dutch art and life during the 17th century – an era of unparalleled wealth, power and cultural confidence. The exhibition explores the subject matter that Dutch painters specialised in, and perfected, during this period. 

Alongside masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer are outstanding paintings by Jacob van Ruisdael, regarded as the greatest landscapist of the Golden Age, and Jan Davidsz de Heem, renowned for his dynamic, colourful compositions of flowers. Subject matter also includes interior scenes, landscapes, townscapes and architecture and marine and history painting. 

AGNSW exhibition curator Peter Raissis said Vermeer’s luminous Woman reading a letter (1663) and one of Rembrandt’s greatest works, Self-portrait as the Apostle Paul (1661), both of which are viewed by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year in the Rijksmuseum’s famed Gallery of Honour, are at the heart of the exhibition in Sydney. 


Jacob Isaacksz van Ruisdael, 'Landscape with a waterfall', c1668, Rijksmuseum, On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A van der Hoop Bequest)

Visitors will see both these works in rare, close proximity, as well as an entire room dedicated to Rembrandt. The Rembrandt room includes seven oils and 16 of Rembrandt’s finest etchings, in superb quality impressions, including biblical and secular subjects,” Raissis said. 

Johannes Vermeer is one of the world’s most beloved artists but his work is seen very infrequently in Australia, as there are only 35 known pictures by him. Woman reading a letter is a perfect example of his work – painted when Vermeer was at the height of his powers and epitomising everything we love about his serene interior scenes,” Raissis added. 

Since its inception in 2010, the Sydney International Art Series has generated over $134 million in overnight visitor expenditure for the State, and attracted over 1.8 million attendees, with over 180,000 overseas, interstate and regional NSW overnight visitors coming specifically to Sydney to view the exhibitions at the Art Gallery of NSW and the MCA. 


Johannes Vermeer, 'Woman reading a letter', c1663, Rijksmuseum, On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A van der Hoop Bequest)

Not only will visitors to the exhibition experience a number of paintings from the famed Gallery of Honour at the Rijksmuseum, they will also be able to enjoy the works in an evocative display. With its nod to Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum, the exhibition is designed by Australian architect Richard Johnson AO. Johnson is best known for his creation of some of Australia’s most iconic cultural buildings and spaces, including AGNSW’s Asian galleries, in 2003. Johnson also developed the beautiful exhibition design for The Greats: masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland at the Gallery in 2015/16. 

Offering fascinating insights into 26 key paintings and narrated by award-winning British actress Miriam Margolyes, a free audio guide for visitors features a selection of 17th century music to accompany each room, selected by ABC Classics, as well as tracks written for children and audio descriptions of the paintings for people who are blind or vision impaired.

11 Nov 2017 – 18 Feb 2018


Jan Havicksz. Steen, 'Family scene', 1670, Rijksmuseum, On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A van der Hoop Bequest)


Frans Hals, 'Portrait of Lucas de Clercq', c1635, Rijksmuseum, On loan from the City of Amsterdam


Frans Hals, 'Portrait Of Feyntje Van Steenkiste', c1635, Rijksmuseum, On loan from the City of Amsterdam.


Karel Dujardin, 'Self-portrait', 1662, Rijksmuseum.


Jan de Bray, 'The governors of the Guild of St Luke, Haarlem', 1675. Rijksmuseum.


Unknown artist, 'Portrait of Portrait of Baruch de Spinoza', c1665, Gemäldesammlung der Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, Germany.


Pieter Jansz Saenredam, 'The westernmost bays of the south aisle of the Mariakerk in Utrecht', c1640-55, Rijksmuseum.


Emanuel de Witte, 'Interior of a Protestant, Gothic Church, with a Gravedigger in the Choir', 1669, Rijksmuseum, On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A van der Hoop Bequest)


Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, 'Two old men disputing', 1628, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Felton Bequest, 1936.


Gerard Dou, 'Old Woman Reading', c. 1631 - c. 1632, Rijksmuseum.


Judith Leyster, 'The jolly drinker', 1629, Rijksmuseum, purchased with the support of the Vereniging Rembrandt


Pieter de Hooch, 'Three women and a man in a yard behind a house', c1663–65, Rijksmuseum, On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A van der Hoop Bequest)


Abraham Mignon, 'Still Life with Fruit, Oysters, and a Porcelain Bowl', 1660 - 1679, Rijksmuseum, Purchased with the support of the Vereniging Rembrandt


Kraak ware bowl, c1600-10, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Gift of Mr J.H. Myrtle 1990.