Pieter Claesz — meester van de Gouden Eeuw

We went to a great exhibition of still life paintings by Pieter Claesz in the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem. This exhibition will travel first to Zürich and then to Washington. Pieter Claesz is — in my opinion — the greatest master of the genre, even better than Heda.

I seldom buy the catalogue of the exhibition, but this book, published by Waanders, like Het Nederlandse Stilleven, and Waanders always prints excellent reproductions; there are many art books, like the Phaidon book on Caravaggio, that are much worse, with indistinct, lifeless, flat reproductions.

But Waanders’ books are excellent; and the text is scholarly and thorough, too. I tend to skip the text in art books, but I sometimes got engrossed enough to skip the paintings. And then I started thumbing back and forth.

If you like painting — a liking for still life is not required, there’s one very excellent painting of a cat killing an eel — and if you’re near Haarlem, Zürich or Washington, then this exhibition is one to go to. And the book one to buy.

We had a lot of fun; the kids like this kind of thing, too, and surprised an elderly gentleman by exclaiming that they’d recognized a particular knife in a series of paintings over and over again. They discovered the reflection of the painter in a tin jar, the difference between a berkemeier and a roemer, decided that the painter in his later period began to deliver sloppy work — and so on. Full marks for observation, those kids.

Next time we’re going to Haarlem, we’ll take Danitia, one of our kids’ close friends, and pay a long visit to the artist’s materials shop, buying stuff. We have what I’d almost call a regular club; Saturday afternoon and Sundays after Church the four girls sit down with me and we experiment with stuff, paint, ink, charcoal — everything is fair game. They don’t get any art lessons at school anymore, so it’s up to the parents to make sure they know oil from gouache, ink from charcoal, wax from clay. And it gives me an excuse to buy cool stuff, and to take a bunch of kids to a museum.