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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Whether seen in daylight or at night, the complex is impressive.
Alice Walton has her own art museum. You might not recognize the name immediately but she's said to be the 16th wealthiest person in the world. She lives in the small town of Bentonville, Arkansas. Maybe you've shopped in one of her stores--Walmart. No, it's not called the Walmart Art Museum. It's called the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and it takes its name from its architecture rather than the heiress and the family foundation which has endowed it. Guesstimates of that endowment add up to around a billion dollars, give or take a few million (specific figures are long since outdated). In any case, with a Forbes estimate of $26.3-billion, she can afford it.
 
The museum is within easy walking distance from
beautiful downtown Bentonville, Arkansas.
There's a lot of ugliness in art circles about Alice Walton's Crystal Bridges, the country's newest major art museum. It is controversial simply by its existence. It exposes the hypocrisy of the art world. The kind of art that gets into museums is surrounded by all manner of expectations and myths. Artists and their critics often want art to be some kind of social critique or revolutionary force. Others want it to preserve aristocratic values in a world of populist conservatism. In reality, what museum grade art does most (and best), is to decorate the lives of the fabulously wealthy. Art is not an anarchic force, or an engine of social change. Art entertains, it enlightens, it enriches, whether in Alice Walton's foyer or her environmentally responsible bastion of American good taste. Walmart epitomizes much of what the cultural elite hates, in terms of both capitalist exploitation and tackiness. So of course lots of self-important artists and other arty folks are going to make snide remarks about a Walmart-funded art museum. In doing so they are, in fact, exposing their ignorance of the economic and social position of museum art in our society today. In effect, they are perched on an elite and precarious scaffolding, which can only stand with the financial support of people like Alice Walton.

The museum opened in 2011 so it's permanent collection is not large, but it is extremely well curated.
Alice Walton's vision for a great art institution in a small corner of Arkansas was as ambitious as it has been successful. Because this is an American art museum in middle of the country, one might expect to see several Norman Rockwells as well as many American landscape and genre painters. There is only one by Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter. Likewise, the American scene painters, while present, were not overly represented. Instead, there is work by Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Willson Peale, Josef Albers, Mark Rothko, Jeff Koons, and Asher B. Durand's famous Kindred Spirits (above, upper-right).

Inside the museum is a pleasant mixture of curves
and angles topped by an exposed-beam ceiling.
Museum gift shop, Marlon Blackwell, Architect
The Crystal Bridges, was designed by Israeli/Canad-ian /American architect, and urban designer, Moshe Saf-die. The museum's glass-and-wood design features a series of pavilions nestled around two creek-fed ponds. The complex includes 217,000 square feet of galleries, sev-eral meeting and class-room spaces, a library, a sculpture garden, a gift shop designed by architect, Marlon Blackwell, a restaurant and coffee bar, named Eleven after the day the museum opened, Novem-ber 11, 2011 (11-11-11). Crys-tal Bridges' meeting space can accommodate up to 300 people. There are also outdoor areas for concerts and public events, as well as extensive nature trails. The museum employs approximately 300 people. Like Walmart stores, admission is free.

Key:
 7--Art library, 8--Loading docks, 9--Art collections, exhibits and vaults,
10--Auditorium, 11--Administrative offices, 12--Arrival terrace, 13--Pond terrace,
14--Visitor orientation, 15--Dining, 16--Pedestrian entrance, 17--parking garage.
Crystal Bridges may be the one and only museum to own a Frank Lloyd Wright original. Known as the Bachman-Wilson House (below), this structure is an example of Wright’s classic Usonian architecture. Wright coined the term "Usonian" to describe a distinctly American style of residential architecture he developed during the Great Depression to be within the reach of the average middle-class American family. The house was originally built in 1956 for Gloria and Abraham Wilson along the Millstone River in New Jersey. It was meticulously restored in 1988. Threatened by repeated flooding at its original location, in order to preserve it, the house was sold to Crystal Bridges and relocated. The museum acquired the house in 2013 whereupon the entire structure was then taken apart, each component labeled, packed, and moved to the museum, where it was reconstructed two years later.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Bachman Wilson House as
reconstructed on the museum's grounds in 2015.
Sculpture also figures prominently in the collection, both in the interior galleries and along outdoor sculpture trails. Sculptors represented in the permanent collection include Paul Manship, Roxy Paine, Mark di Suvero, and James Turrell. Leo Villareal’s lighted sculpture Buckyball (below) was added to Crystal Bridges' permanent collection in 2013 to become a featured element in the museum's extensive sculpture garden.

Bucky Ball, 2013, Leo Villareal
Crystal Bridges' museum complex lives up to it's name. It's complex.
And this is where it all began.

















































 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Thomas Doughty

Fishing in a River, 1828, Thomas Doughty. Though unarguably the work of Doughty, the dazzling color, as compared to his other works, leads me to think this may be a present-day, hand-painted copy. I could not, however, find an original version. It could also be one of the few instances involving the costly cleaning and restoration of a Doughty original. The painting is privately owned.
As diverse and visually complex as American art has become today, with media as ancient as fresco and egg tempera and as cutting edge as pigmented pixels, it's important to remember that during this nation's nascent period, the visual arts were limited entirely to relatively crude oil portraits, a few tavern signs, and carved tombstones. Americans were nothing if not practical. Art was used solely to commemorate and communicate (aside from perhaps a few ladies doing needlepoint). And for the first couple hundred years, that's pretty much the way things stayed. Then around 1820, two men from New York City changed all that. The packed up their imported oils, stretched canvases, sketchbooks, charcoal, easels, folding camp stools, tents, and other survival paraphernalia, loaded them on horses, and began following ancient Indian trails up the Hudson River, stopping now and again to paint the scenery. If not the first artists to do so, they were, at least, the first to recognize the inherent beauty of the American landscape as something more than a wilderness of natural dangers and stubborn impediments. One of those men was Thomas Sully, the other, Thomas Doughty.

Delaware Water Gap, 1827, Thomas Doughty
There were others of course, Alvin Fisher, John Frederick Kennset, and Thomas Cole, to name just a few of the first generation of what has since come to be known as the Hudson River School of landscapes painting. I deliberately led off with Doughty's Fishing in a River (top) from 1927-28 suggesting it might be a restored painting, especially as compared to his Lake and Mountains (below) from roughly the same decade, which obviously is badly in need of restoration. Fishing in a River, by the way, is not necessarily the Hudson River, but possibly one of its tributaries. The Delaware Water Gap (above) also from the 1820s, is not the Hudson River either, but such streams are usually included in paintings said to be of the Hudson River School.

Lake and Mountains, 1820s, Thomas Doughty. Compare this to the top image. The prevalence of Wood burning fireplaces are often blamed for discoloring paintings from this era.
Art historians have argued for over a century as to who should be credited with having "founded" the Hudson River "School" (which was by no means an academic institution). However, it would be fairly safe to say Thomas Doughty would be a prime candidate for such an distinction. Fisher may have been the first, and his meager work was likely an inspiration for all the others. But Doughty quickly followed and, it's his work which is credited with sparking the initial popularity of landscape painting in the newborn United States.

View of the Fairmount Waterworks, Philadelphia, Thomas Doughty, from the opposite side of the Schuylkill River.
Thomas Doughty was born on July 19, 1791 on 1793 (sources differ) in Philadelphia, the son of a local ship carpenter. He was locally educated and later apprenticed to become a leather worker. He was also gifted with largely self-taught skills as an artist. Doughty’s older brother, a ship designer of frigates such as the Constitution and the President, was instrumental in encour-aging his younger brother towards art. While still in his early twenties, Doughty was working as a leather currier in Philadelphia, but by around 1816, he was registered as a painter. In the same year, he exhibited for the first time at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The View of the Fair-mount Waterworks (above) is possibly one of his earliest surviving works. Despite having been digitally enhanced, it too shows signs of having hung over a fireplace for far too many years.
 
Desert Rock Lighthouse, Maine, Thomas Doughty
In 1828, two works by Doughty were included in an exhibition onboard the Hudson River steamboat, Albany, organized in an effort to differentiate the steamboat from its competitors. Besides work by Thomas Doughty, the steamboat company included works by Thomas Birch, Thomas Cole, and Thomas Sully. The name, "Thomas," seems to have been a prerequisite for joining the Hudson River School. About this same time, Doughty moved from Philadelphia to Boston where He display some nineteen paintings at the Athenaeum. However, Doughty did not remain in Boston long, before returning to Philadelphia in around 1830 where he began to work on The Cabinet of Natural History and American Rural Sports (little more than a men's hunting magazine) with his brother. The publishing effort contained historical accounts of the flora and fauna of North America, including detailed illustrations utilizing color lithographs. It also illustrated Doughty’s ability to render significant natural detail not to mention his expertise at lithography.

Ships in Rough Coastal Waters, Thomas Doughty

Niagara Falls, Thomas Doughty
Doughty returned to Boston in 1832. There he would remain for the next five years. These years proved to be his most productive and lucrative, allowing him various sketching trips to the White Mountains, New Hampshire, the Catskill Mountains, New York's Niagara Falls (left), and along the coasts of Mas-sachusetts and Maine as seen in Ships in Rough Costal Waters (above). Al-though Doughty set up a studio in Bos-ton, like virtually all serious American painters who could afford to, he began making short trips to Europe in 1835 and again in 1845. He added to his list of American rivers he'd painted, the Seine, and the Thames. It would be safe to say these trips to Europe ruined his career.

Windsor Castle, ca 1837, Thomas Doughty
Though Doughty's work became more lyrical and intimate in feeling, he began painting his landscapes in a manner reminiscent of the misty painters of the Barbizon School and with the softness of Constable's landscape sketches. In 1838, when Doughty returned to America, this time he settled in New York City. His European sojourn and exposure to French and English works had influenced him greatly. His landscapes became more painterly, while utilizing a darker palette with more stress on tone rather then color. In 1845, Doughty returned to London where he exhibited paintings of English scenery, including scenes of Windsor Castle (above). The following year, he traveled to Paris and sketched from paintings in the Louvre.

View Toward London from Hampstead Heath,
ca. 1837, Thomas Doughty
In returning to New York, like many other painters of his time, Doughty spent the winter in the city and the summers traveling. By this time his health had begun to deteriorate even as he continued to experience some degree of public praise for his truthfulness to nature. However, as a result of his exposure to European landscapes, Doughty began introducing Romantic castles and ruins along the banks of his frontier wilderness streams. Tastes had changed by the 1840s. Thomas Cole and a whole second generation of Hudson River School painters were gaining recognition. Doughty’s Romantic landscapes fell out of favor. For several years he moved around in search of economic opportunity. At the same time, he continued to suffer from poor health and in 1851, in an effort to deter critics, wrote in the Home Journal that he would prefer not to paint at all than paint poor pictures or “pot boilers”. Doughty lived briefly in Oswego, New York as he tried to recover his health. But by 1853, he had again returned to New York City, where he lived for the remainder of his life, until his death due to “a softening of the brain” (probably a stroke). He died impoverished in July, 1856.

Winter Landscape, 1830, Thomas Doughty.
He was one of the few Hudson River School
artists to paint winter landscapes.
















Grizzly Bear lithograph, Thomas
Doughty, probably painted from
memory, or a vivid imagination.











































 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Gerrit Dou

Notice the inclusion of the written word (poetry), sculpture, even music as Gerrit Dou touted painting as the "paragon of the arts" in depicting nature.
Art used to be considered much more important than it is today. From time to time in past ages there would arise various art controversies which were considered fundamentally critical at the time, but that today would likely fall in the realm of "who the hell cares." For instance, during the early 1800s the argument arose in the French Academy as to which was more important draughtsmanship or color (drawing or painting). That one eventually came to a draw as the academicist decided both were of equal importance (duh). Another similar argument having about as much consequence came up in the Netherlands during the Dutch "golden age." It had to do with which of the fine arts was best at representing nature, painting, sculpture, or poetry. Art historians refer to it now and then as the "paragon debate." Once more, today, we would dismiss the whole thing with something on the order of, "what the hell difference does it make?"


Gerrit Dou's paintings were all quite modes in size. The
self-portrait above, bottom-left, was a mere seven by five inches.
One artist of the time, the painter Gerrit Dou, seemed to think it made a lot of difference. Being a painter of some repute, he naturally came down on the side of painting. In fact, he pretty much devoted his entire painting career to trying to prove his point. His Old Painter in His Studio (top, left) was so "natural" (read, realistic), his technique so precise, he is said to have taken five days to paint a hand, with brushes so small he had to make them himself. Needless to say, he had few portrait clients. He was so impressed with himself, his portraits were mostly of himself (above).
 
OId Painter in his Studio, 1630-32, Gerrit Dou
The Silver Ewer, 1663, Gerrit Dou
The paragon debate is not only addressed in writings from that time, but is also reflected in the subject matter of quite a number of Dou’s paintings. An example, is his the Old Painter in his Studio (above), an old painter is shown working on a canvas behind a table displaying objects that show his capabilities of imitation. The aged painter refers to an argument in the paragon debate that a painter can achieve his best work at an old age, while a sculptor cannot because of the physical demands of sculpting. On the table, a sculptured head and a printed book are rendered in a lifelike fashion to show that painting can imitate both sculpture and printed paper, thereby reinforcing the notion that painting trumps sculpture and literature. Dou's The Silver Ewer (above) demon-strates his skill with still-lifes, though in fact, he painted very few of them among all his approximately two-hundred works. A prominent supporter of Dou's position goes so far as to argue that the ability of painting to "preserve the transient works of nature thereby also surpasses it."
 
Prince Rupert of the Palatinate and his Tutor, 1631,
Gerrit Dou, an excellent example of his portraiture.
A Painter in his Studio,
1637,  Gerrit Dou
Gerrit Dou (also sometime spelled "Douw" or "Dow") was born in 1613. Gerrit was the son of a Leiden stained glass maker, and as was the custom at that time, studied stained glass making before moving on at the age of fourteen to study under Rembrandt. Rembrandt was only seven years older than his talented young (and perhaps first) student. The Painter in his Studio (right) from 1637 is thought by some to, in fact, be Rembrandt. The title is somewhat confusing in that Dou used it (or close variations of it) numerous times over his career. In any case, at some point early on, Dou avoided becoming a Rembrandt look-alike to develop a style of his own. He managed to cultivate a minute and elaborate mode of painting. Today we'd probably refer to him as "anal-retentive."

Dentist by Candlelight, 1660-65, Gerrit Dou
Yet the general effect of Dou's work was harmonious and free from stiffness, while his color was always fresh and transparent. He often represented subjects in lantern or candle light, the effects of which he reproduced with an unparalleled fidelity and skill. Some of Dou's most popular works are night scenes such as Dentist by Candlelight (above) and his Woman Drawing a Beverage (below).


Woman Drawing a Beverage, Gerrit Dou
Dou's died in 1675, though his work continued to command respect (and high prices) for some two-hundred years after his death. However, around the 1860s he fell into obscurity. In terms of Dutch art, Gerrit Dou was on a par with Rembrandt or Frans Hals, but remained quite obscure until the 1970s when there were several retrospectives involving Dutch painting, which helped reestablish and maintain his reputation and popularity since.

Hermit, 1665, Gerrit Dou On the table are
an open book, a rosary and an hour glass.



























Sleeping Dog, 1650, Gerrit Dou











































 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dosso Dossi

Aeneas and Achates on the Libyan Coast, 1510, Dosso Dossi
When we think of the Renaissance, we invariably think of Rome and the so-called "big three"--Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael--the "kingpins" of the Italian Renaissance. However, art historians don't refer to the Italian Renaissance for nothing. Just as there was a northern counterpart to this "rebirth of learning," there was much more to the Italian Renaissance than just Rome. Virtually every major urban art center on the Italian peninsula was the beneficiary of this enlightened era leaving behind a list of excellent, yet at the same time, secondary artists as long as your arm...both of them, in fact. We're well aware of the impact of Florentine and Venetian painters, but cities such as Milan, Siena, Ferrara, Mantua, Umbria, Naples, and to a lesser extent, two or three others, all contributed art and artists to this explosive period of creative endeavors. I came upon today one, rather peculiar example of this, the work of an artist from the north of Italy who painted under the almost laughable moniker, Dosso Dossi. (No, he didn't invent square dancing).
 
The figure on the left is a self-portrait while the figure on 
the right, also painted by Dossi, is merely purported to be.
Dosso Dossi was born in 1490, and that was not, needless to say, his real name. His birth name was Giovanni di Niccolò de Luteri (which might go a long way in explaining why he painted under an assumed name). His brother was also a painter and apparently went along with the ruse. His name was Battista Dossi. And though not as historically prominent as his older brother, he seems to me to have been the better painter. He had once, briefly, studied under Raphael (if that means anything). Both brothers were born in the province of Mantua (east of Milan). Had either of them lived and worked in a major Italian city at the time, we'd probably not even know of them. As it was, they were what might be called, "big fish in a small pond."
 
Allegoria della Fortuna, 1535-38, Dosso Dossi
That "small pond" was Ferrara. There, starting in 1514, Dosso Dossi served some thirty years as the ruling d'Este family's "court" painter . Dossi's brother worked alongside him much of the time, their style so similar its nearly impossible to tell which man worked on which part of their painting commissions. The works they produced for the d'Este dukes included the ephemeral decorations of furniture and theater sets. The elder Dossi is known to have worked alongside il Garofalo on the Costabili polyptych.
 
Lamentation over the Body of Christ, 1517-1520, Dosso Dossi
In truth, Dosso Dossi was, at best, a mediocre painter, not particularly known for his naturalism or attention to design. Dossi's work is said to be characterized by a certain nonchalance, making whatever he did appear to be without effort and almost without any thought. The overall effect of Dossi's style was therefore somewhat caricature-like, primitive, with eccentric distortions of proportion. Notice the awkward angle of Christ's head in Dossi's Lamentation over the Body of Christ (above) from around 1520. Dossi's gross distortion of the faces and arms of the women nearest Christ are particularly amateurish. Dossi is also known for the atypical choices of bright pigments for his cabinet pieces. On the other hand, what set him apart from his peers, were his atmospheric and “impressionistic” background landscapes and his imaginative treatment of mythological subjects. Many of Dossi's paintings bear cryptic allegorical elements framed around mythological themes, favored by the humanist Ferrarese court.

Jupiter, Mercury and Virtue, 1530s, Dosso Dossi
In Jupiter, Mercury, and Virtue (above) from around 1530, we see a visual perspective, a trio of figures occupying a surreal stage-like setting with Jupiter, the king of Roman gods in sitting with his legs crossed next to his thunderbolt. Once more we see a terribly awkward distortion of the neck and head as Jupiter calmly paints uncharacteristic butterflies on a blue canvas. With his back turned to his father, Jupiter, Mercury is seated in the center with his winged hat and green drapery blowing fiercely in the gusty winds. He puts his finger to his lips to shush a pleading female figure in a lavish golden dress and luxurious jewelry, identified as an allegory of Virtue.

Bacchus, 1524, Dosso Dossi. (What? No grapes?)
St. Sebastian, 1524,
Dosso Dossi
Dosso Dossi's most famous figure is that of Bacchus (above) apparently hurling something out of the picture to the left. The painting dates from 1524. Iconic as it may be, the best that can be said for Dossi's Bacchus is that he needs a baseball pitcher's uniform. He appears to have a pretty good arm. The town in the background looks like some-thing out of the 21st century. From a purely anatomical perspective, Dossi's St. Sebastian (right) is about as good as he gets, one of his few well-drawn (and painted) images. But, then again, maybe his younger brother did this one.

Portrait of a Court Jester, Dosso Dossi.
Whichever brother painted this one,
he certainly "nailed" it.






















































 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Kees van Dongen

Restaurant de la Paix (Peace Restaurant), ca, 1914, Kees van Dongen,
depicts masked guests arriving for a party.
It would come as no surprise to anyone that male artists love to paint women. It would be safe to say that those of the feminine gender have been the single most common content area for all artists, men or women. Except for a few dedicated landscape painters and the non-representational artists of the 20th century, virtually all painters have painted more women during their lifetimes than men, or likely any other subject for that matter. Although there has been no shortage of female nudes down through the centuries, most of painters (and probably their models) preferred their female figures clothed. Seldom, however, has an artist painted women, clothed or otherwise, with such dogged consistency than the Dutch-born, but mostly French artist, Kees van Dongen.
 
Kees van Dongen appears to have been rather vane, there's
certainly no shortage of self-portraits and photos of the man.
Woman with Large Hat,
1906, Kees van Dongen
I've neither the time nor inclination to take a survey of van Dongen's work, but judging from what I've see, I'd say roughly 95% of the man's paintings were of women, and about half of those were nude. Moreover, taking into account all his female figures, the vast majority, were what we'd term at least "mildly erotic." He must have been quite popular among the ladies, or perhaps merely quite persuasive, in that most of his nude figures have names known to us today meaning they were mostly friends and acquaintances.

Tableau, 1913, and a nude self-portrait, painted several years later.
(For the sake of good taste, these are details of the much larger works.)
One of van Dongen's favorite models was his wife, Augusta Preitinger, also an artist whom he had met while they were studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rotterdam. They married in 1901 shortly after van Dongen moved to Paris. Although initially living aboard a laundry barge on the Seine, Van Dongen gained celebrity through the outraged reaction to his large nude of his wife, Tableau, painted in 1913, and now in the Centre Georges Pompidou (above-left). This picture, shown at the Salon d'Automne the same year that it was painted, was considered so salacious and licentious that the police removed it. Several years later van Dongen painted a similar nude self-portrait (above-right). Art history does not record what the police thought of it.

Le Pont des Arts, Kees van Dongen
Shortly before the outbreak of WW I, van Dongen acquired a reputation as a socialite, hosting a masquerade party at his home that was the talk of fashionable Paris. His painting Restaurant de la Paix (top), dates from about 1914. van Dongen's licentious nudes and erotic subjects caused a stir among critics and admirers alike. His connections with the rich and famous led him to chronical the "Age des Folles" and its excesses. His portraits from around this time range from the world-weary garcons to well-known members of the social elite.



                             Jasmy Jacob, c. 1920,
                             Kees van Dongen, his
                             mistress at the time.


At the Racetrack, 1950s, Kees van Dongen.
Although I've not mentioned it yet, if you know anything at all about painting styles from around the turn of the century, you'll recognize that Kees van Dongen was a Fauvist (wild beast). His palette was wild and beastly. Stylistically, he ranged all over the place from German Expressionism ala Die Brucke (the bridge) to what has come to be know as the "Paris School," which is probably more accurate. While associated with Fauvism early in his career, Van Dongen introduced a range of edgy urban subjects that went further in challenging social norms than Derain, Vlaminck, Matisse, or any of the others, who stuck to traditional bourgeois themes (still-life, landscape, portraits, and interiors). Van Dongen was born in 1877 and died in 1968 at the age of ninety-one, so he was both witness to, and a participant in, a very broad span of painting styles and history. Kees van Dongen has never received the critical acclaim afforded other Fauves. Whether or not he deserves it is still an open question. But what is certain is that modern art today would not be the same without him.


One of van Dongen's most famous (clothed) models.


Tête d' Enfant (Head of a Child), 1948,
Kees van Dongen, his youngest (and
cutest) model.



























































 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lambert Doomer

Hannah brings Samuel to Eli, 1700, Lambert Doomer--
his final painting.
Historians treat people like dogs or horses (take your pick). That's especially true of those dealing primarily with genealogy. They are almost exclusively interested in a person's pedigree. Moreover, this observation is most abundantly true the more a given society is class conscious...meaning mostly European genealogical historians. Art historians are somewhat less so. They have long ago become well aware that art talent, unlike wealth and titles, is far less likely to be inherited. And even in cases where they obviously have been, there's less likelihood that a child will absorb the family art expertise and utilize it in becoming an artist. Unlike managing a family fortune, insofar as art is concerned, there's comparatively little money in it, thus making an artist-father's footsteps less attractive.
 
An Interior with Peasants Singing and Dancing Around a Table,
1681, Lambert Doomer. (I love the little dancing doggie, lower-right.)
Art historians are much more interested in an artist's academic pedigree. That is, where was he or she trained? Who were the instructors? How influential were they? Were they, in and of themselves, famous? Who did their student or protégé mentor in later years? What influence did they have; and were their students in any way notable. We who write about artists of the past are obliged to dive into all this mundane trivia in that art training, like genes and family nurturing, IS inherited. Perhaps even more than "art genes," academic influences are handed down from generation to generation. The 17th century Dutch painter, Lambert Doomer is a typical case in point.

Lambert Doomer drawing,
Ferdinand Bol (who did study
under Rembrandt).
Lambert Doomer's genealogy is notably irrelevant. His father was a furniture maker named Herman. His mother was Baertje Martens. He was born in 1624, the third of nine children. He grew up in Amsterdam. His father tried to fashion his son into a furniture maker but young Lambert only wanted to draw furniture and other stuff (mostly other stuff). There was a broad range of content in Lambert Doomer's later paintings and drawings, but seldom did they feature furniture. The real question for art historians to try to answer seems to be: did he, or did he not, study under Rembrandt van Rijn?

Herman and Baertje Doomer, 1638, Rembrandt van Rijn
There's ample evidence that he did. In fact, Lambert's father actually built picture frames for Rembrandt. Add to this the fact that Rembrandt painted portraits of Lambert's parents, Herman and Baertje, on the occasion of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary (not uncommon today, but very much so at that time). Their son painted copies of the portraits in 1644. Yet, despite such circumstantial evidence there are no official documents (such as St. Luke's Guild records) to prove conclusively that he studied under Rembrandt. And if he did, why, with that level of mentoring and instruction, is Lambert Doomer virtually unknown as an artist today? He didn't even so much as leave behind a self-portrait (a training exercise Rembrandt would likely have demanded).
 
The Pont de l' Echellerie in Nantes, Lambert Doomer
In 1648, Doomer continued his art training (such as it was) by traveling to France with a friend, Willem Schellinks (three years younger than he), who later became a landscape painter. Together, they both made extensive drawings of the trip. Their destination was Nantes, where two of Doomer's brothers lived. However, apparently they argued and split up. Some years later, the two embarked on a trip to England. Though both were on the same ship, neither mentioned the other in their journals. Despite his questionable academic pedigree, Doomer seems to have been relatively successful as a painter. In fact, he was sufficiently well-off to have purchased at auction a large number of Rembrandt's drawings and sketchbooks when the Dutch master went bankrupt in 1657. In doing so, Doomer made meticulous copies of those he acquired (which has only served to muddy the water as to whether he was a Rembrandt student).

Portrait of Two Young Girls with a Pet Dog and a doll,
1682, Lambert Doomer.
In 1663 Doomer made a trip down the Rhine traveling as far as Switzerland. It was his last such sojourn. He married in 1668, at the age of forty-four. He and his wife settled in Alkmaar in northern Holland, where he made many drawings. In 1694, near the end of his life, Lambert Doomer moved back to Amsterdam. There he died in the year 1700.


Jeu de la longue Paume (predecessor of tennis).
In the background is Castle Saumur, Lambert Doomer.