From 2 February through 19 April 2010, the Rijksmuseum will present a small exhibition on the 16th century artist Pieter Aertsen. This marks the first occasion in a long time that his work, including the famous painting The Egg Dance (1552), will once again be on display in the Rijksmuseum. The exhibition is being organised in honour of head curator Wouter Kloek, who is leaving the museum.
As a young and ambitious artist, Pieter Aertsen (1508?-1575) left Amsterdam to pursue a career in Antwerp, the bustling artistic centre of the time. He painted altarpieces, merrymaking peasants and the first still life. In his market and pub scenes and depictions of food, it seems as though the incidental has become the main focus and the world is in disarray. The poor example in the foreground draws the attention, but the meaning of the paintings is to be found in the background.
In 1566 Aertsen bore witness to the Breaking of the Images (Beeldenstorm), an outbreak of iconoclasm in the Netherlands and Belgium. A significant portion of his work was lost during this time. Fortunately, two sections of an altarpiece were saved, as was a large fragment of a Herdsman with ox head, which is on loan from the Amsterdam Historical Museum for the exhibition. Other featured works include the famous painting The Egg Dance and The Healing of the Cripple of Bethesda, painted by the artist in 1575, a few weeks prior to his death. A large painting by Aertsen’s master apprentice Joachim Beuckelaer (1533?-1575), Christ in the House of Maria and Martha (1566), completes the ensemble.
By means of this small exhibition Wouter Kloek is bidding farewell to the Rijksmuseum, where he has served as curator since 1973. He is an authority on 16th and 17th century painting. He collaborated on large exhibitions such as Art before the Breaking of the Igames (Kunst voor de Beeldenstorm) and Dawn of the Golden Age. During his last years of service at the Rijksmuseum, his duties as head curator saw him coordinating plans for the museum’s renovation.