Type of Document Thesis Author Giannino, Denise URN etd-07102006-143732 Title Gerrit Dou: Seventeenth-Century Artistic Identity and Modes of Self-Referentiality in Self-Portraiture and Scenes of Everyday Life Degree Master of Arts Department Art History, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title James J. Bloom Committee Chair Paula Gerson Committee Member Robert Neuman Committee Member Keywords
- Dutch Genre Painting
- Gerrit Dou
Date of Defense 2006-06-12 Availability unrestricted AbstractGerrit Dou (1613-1675) is among the many artists in the Dutch Republic whose paintings, as well as professional activities, display a preoccupation with the status of painting as a liberal art and the status of the painter as a learned, esteemed individual. This is especially apparent in his self-portraits and the contemporary texts that extolled his skill as a painter. His paintings gained international fame for their minutely detailed, meticulously crafted, and finely wrought surfaces. At the beginning of his long career, he was praised by individuals like Philips Angel and Jan Orlers as someone to be imitated artistically and emulated professionally and personally.
Despite his fame in the seventeenth-century, Dou is not nearly the household name that Rembrandt is at present; however, his art and life have received a fair amount of scholarly attention over the course of the past century. The overwhelming majority of previous studies conclude that much of Douís oeuvre is concerned with the art of painting. While scholars are correct in identifying this theme as central to Douís images, they have yet to connect this theme as it relates to the projection of self, apparent in his self-portraits and scenes of the artist in his studio and his representations of individual genre figures. I contend that there is an extension of self-reflection and self-projection from Douís self-portraits to his studio scenes and genre paintings, and that studying these sets of images in relation to one another reveals a more complete understanding of identity. His scenes of an artist in his studio and individual genre figures set in niches act as an extension of his self-portraits, whereby Douís self-consciously constructed identity as an ideal or exemplary artist without superior is reflected in both his genre paintings and self-portraits. He shows himself in a variety of roles, complementary to the theme of the art of painting. Dou is pictor doctus, alter deus, one who paints amoris causa, a painter whose virtuosity and skill has no equal - in imitating nature his paintings surpasses nature itself in their ability to deceive animals as well as people (including other artists). He is a painter whose invention is motivated by inspiration and imagination as much as knowledge and learning.
Dou constructs and presents himself allegorically in the self-portraits and employs a similar mode of construction in the genre paintings. Dou plays specific elements off each other within his compositions, such that their juxtaposition provides a commentary not only on the theme of the art of painting, but also more specifically on the identity of the artist. Genre paintings like Man with a Pipe at a Window (c.1645), the Violin Player (1653), The Doctor (1660-65), and the Girl Peeling Carrots (1646) fashion meaning and reference the artist in ways similar to the self-portraits. However, the more playful motifs and tropes seen in Man with a Pipe at a Window and the Violin Player act as a complement to the serious and intellectual artist seen in his earlier self-portraits and the wealthy gentleman projected in his later self-portraits. These paintings can also be seen as kinds of self-portraits because they not only assert the presence of the artist, most obviously in the prominence of his signature and his trademark niche format, but also augment his projected artistic persona as it first appears in his self-portraits and scenes of the artist in his studio. Juxtaposing and pairing several kinds of images in this way will offer a more complete picture of Dou and his lifelong concerns with the status and perception of the art of painting Ė concerns that were more self-interested and self-motivated than scholars are usually willing to acknowledge, especially when framed within the social and historical fabric of Leiden in the seventeenth century. By extension, a comparison to other notable figures like Jan Steen, Rembrandt and Samuel van Hoogstraten will show the cultivation of an identity and reputation that was as deliberately crafted and intentionally strategic as some of his contemporaries.
In conclusion, this paper proposes a reading of Douís nisstuk paintings in relation to his self-portraits with the aim of better understanding the image of the artist and of self that Dou projected across the range of his oeuvre. The visual mechanics of self-fashioning through the combining and blurring of boundaries between genres have been ascribed to other artists like Rembrandt, Steen and van Hoogstraten, but Dou has largely been left out of this discourse. The growing number of artists that scholars link to this pictorial trend of stepping outside the conventional limits of self-portraiture suggests that the last word on how artistic identity was visually constructed and communicated by Dutch artists of the seventeenth-century has not been written.
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