Interior with a Mother delousing her child's hair, known as 'A Mother's duty'
Pieter de Hooch
Oil on canvas
52,5 x 61 cm
In a room with a boxbed, a mother and child are sitting happily together. The woman is absorbed by a rather prosaic task: delousing her child's hair. The delicate play of the light leads the viewer's attention from room to room. The light in the room is somewhat subdued whereas as the room at the back is sunny. A garden can be seen through the open door. A ray of light shines through the high window, lighting up the two figures. It also catches the edge of the child's chair and the copper bedpan. The sunlight reflects strongly in the door, causing the floor tiles and hair on the dog's chest to glisten.
An old woman is sitting quietly in her chair. On the table beside her is a book. She is wearing a kind of two-piece: a black dress and matching coat trimmed with fur, which is draped elegantly over the chair. In her hand is a handkerchief. This type of costume was fashionable around 1640 but the large ruff and the cap with wing flaps were out-of-date by this time. Nevertheless, the older generation tended to ignore the whims of fashion and continued to wear these garments.
Ferdinand Bol (1616-1680)
The artist Ferdinand Bol grew up in Dordrecht. He learned to paint either there or in Utrecht under the artist Abraham Bloemaert. Later Bol worked for a period at the studio of Rembrandts in Amsterdam, before setting up as an independent artist in 1642. Bol mainly produced portraits and history paintings. At first his work resembled Rembrandt's, but after 1650 he developed a more colourful and elegant style. Bol received numerous commissions, including for the Amsterdam town hall and the Admiralty. After 1669 and his second marriage to Anna van Arckel, Bol, now a wealthy man, hardly painted anymore. His self portrait of the late 1660s is one of his last works.
Elisabeth Jacobsdr. Bas (1571-1649), widow of Jochem Hendricksz. Swartenhont
Oil on canvas
118 x 91,5 cm
Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia
21 February – 26 May 2008
Duchamp set himself the challenge of making art works
that were not works of art, as traditionally understood.
He decided that an art work did not need to be either
visually appealing or even made by the artist. Accordingly,
he chose a number of ‘readymade’ objects, of no
aesthetic merit, and gave them the usual attributes of a
work of art: a title, a named author, a date of execution,
and a viewing public or owner. His Fountain – an ordinary
urinal laid on its back – was rejected from an exhibition
in 1917. This, and more importantly, the ensuing debate
about what constitutes a work of art, is now seen as
a turning point in the history of modernism.
Rather than readymades, Man Ray produced what he called
‘objects of my affection’: two or more elements combined
to create a new work. He also used his camera to record
transient or ephemeral items that caught his eye. Here it
was the photograph that was the work of art, rather than
the object itself.
Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Francis Picabia were at the cutting edge of art in the first half of the twentieth century, and made a lasting impression on modern and contemporary art. Duchamp invented the concept of the ‘readymade’: presenting an everyday object as an artwork, Man Ray pioneered avant-garde photographic and film techniques and Picabia’s use of kitsch, popular or low-brow imagery in his paintings undermined artistic conventions.
Their shared outlook on life and art, with a taste for jokes, irony and the erotic, forged a friendship that provided support and inspiration. At the heart of the Dada movement and moving in the same artistic circles, they discussed ideas and collaborated, echoing and responding to each other’s works. Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia explores their affinities and parallels, uncovering a shared approach to questioning the nature of art.
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