Difficult to imagine: artists like da Vinci, Rembrandt and others living before roughly 1840, faced problems painting en plein air. Their main problem: paint was made in their studios. It was difficult to preserve.
Apprentices mixed oil and pigments in the studio, in small quantities. Left-overs were kept in pig-bladders to try preserve the mix. Of course, each colour needed a different pig-bladder. Imagine walking off into the countryside, having to carry over five full pig-bladders (just primary colours, black and white) – not to mention other equipment.
The invention of the paint tube improved things considerably. By that time, 1820-1840, trains ensured artists could travel around much easier aswell. Paint-boxes, portable easels, folding stools ensured, working in the great outdoors – en plein air – was no longer a hurdle.
Landscapes, seascapes, nature, the countryside and weather, as well as related topics, could now be painted on the spot. A painting by Constant Gabriël which bears the title En Plein Air (1870), sums up the result. It is currently to be found in a small exhibition, also called En Plein Air in Museum Gouda.
The exhibition is one of several at this museum. It is to be found on the museum’s first floor. The 35 works contain examples by members of the Barbizon school and Dutch followers who worked at Oosterbeek. This village is often called the “Dutch Barbizon”.
No romanticism, no idealized landscapes or invented history scenes: Rousseau, Millet, Corot went after realism. Visitors come across “The woodcutter” by Rousseau, “landscape with rain crossing the sky” by Michel. There are several works by Daubigny, a forest late by Caillebotte and La Rochelle captured by Corot and others.
Felix Ziem’s “Landscape with rainbow” (before 1855) impressed me very much. A dark, threatening sky and that wonderful arc. Watch it close-up and it is clear the artist put his brush down at one point and drew it in a single fluid semi-circle. Take a few steps back to admire this work again: stunning.
Dutch artists in this exhibition include Anton Mauve, Gabriël, Johannes Warnus and Gerard Bilders, as well as Marie Bilders-van Bosse. Most of the paintings show scenes created around Oosterbeek, where many artists spend summer-months and others actually resided. Among their works are sunny water-meadows, lazy rivers, sleepy towns, mysterious woods.
Seen enough outdoor paintings? Next this exhibition is a room full of ceramics. Visitors to the Mesdag Collection may remember, Colenbrander worked for a Gouda pottery firm. This room shows how various pottery is created. It displays ceramics from various local pottery firms and – Colenbrander biscuits designs from his RAM period.
Permanent collection and modern art
Of course the museum’s permanent collection, including a complete apothecary, can be visited. At the time of my visit, there was also a temporary exhibition of interesting modern art. All modern works were by local Gouda artists. Museum visitors get a chance to vote for their favourite object and artist. Kate 5th April 2019
Painting Outdoors continues until 2nd February 2020. English exhibition texts available in the exhibition.