Grand Rapids Art Museum Presents Dutch Utopia: American Artists in Holland, 1880-1914

Exhibition explores little-studied period in American art history

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., – The Grand Rapids Art Museum presents the internationally-touring exhibition Dutch Utopia: American Arts in Holland, 1880-1914 open through August 15, 2010. Dutch Utopia is the first major exhibition to explore the little-known phenomenon of American artists settling or working in Holland around the turn of the twentieth century, and to consider the cultural significance of their artwork. These artists created visions of Dutch society that celebrated a pre-industrial lifestyle and, in some cases, alluded to America’s own colonial Dutch heritage.

Dutch Utopia features over seventy paintings and works on paper drawn from public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe. It includes works by distinguished artists such as Robert Henri, William Merritt Chase, John Twachtman, and John Singer Sargent, along with those of painters admired in their own time but less well-known today—including George Hitchcock, Gari Melchers, George Boughton, Elizabeth Nourse, Anna Stanley, and Walter MacEwen.

The exhibition focuses on a number of American painters who, disillusioned with the rapid modernization of U.S. cities and towns, established art communities in six small, pre-industrial societies in the Netherlands between 1880 and the beginning of World War I. During this time, hundreds of American artists traveled to Holland to sketch in the bucolic landscape or study the art of the Dutch Old Masters.

Several even relocated on a permanent or semi-permanent basis to largely rural art communities in Laren, Katwijk, Volendam, Egmond, Rijsoord, and Dordrecht. During a time of increasing industrialization, these artists produced paintings that romanticized the traditional lifestyles of Dutch villagers, while idealizing their self-sufficiency and strong connection to the land.

Dutch Utopia examines the work produced by these American artists within the context of six major themes: the influence of Dutch Golden Age painting; the impact of the contemporary Hague School; anti-modernism and the American Progressive Movement; points of convergence in national identities; the proliferation of artist colonies; and Holland as a tourist destination. Featuring a variety of subject matter, works in the exhibition range from intimate domestic interiors and charming vignettes of daily life to picturesque rural landscapes and impressive Dutch genre paintings.

Image: Gari Melchers (1860-1932) The Sermon, 1886. Oil on canvas, 62 ⅝ x 86 ½ inches. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. Bequest of Henry Ward Ranger through the National Academy of Design

Grand Rapids Art Museum
101 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids,
Michigan 49503

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  1. Marianna Heule says:

    Thank you so much for the Dutch Utopia exhibit, I was so impressed and purchased a membership to the museum immediately.
    I hope you will be able to more of this high quality work to the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

    Marianna Heule

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