Thursday, October 30, 2014

From the Library: The Book Illustrations by Romeyn de Hooghe

Where: National Gallery of Art

When: through January 25, 2015

Lots of pieces have moved at the National Gallery of Art, as the West Building has made way for works from the East Building, but the little room where exhibits from the museum's library are displayed is still in the same place.  It's tucked away on the ground floor in room G21; happily there's a sign over the door that lets you know you've reached the right place.

The current display is one of book illustrations by Romeyn de Hooghe, a person with whom I was completely unfamiliar until I saw this offering of some of his work.  Sadly, I'm not much more informed now than I was before I looked at this display.  Rather than put up some wall notes to give the visitor a little background information, the Gallery has put out brochures to take.  I appreciate the trouble they've taken to create and print these, but frankly, I just want a few sentences - not pages of info.  I suppose it's my own fault for not looking at the brochure, but a short description of each piece, with a paragraph or two of introduction would have suited me better, and saved a few trees in the process!

I was further stymied by the fact that that the text of the books is almost entirely in Dutch, which I don't read.  I tried a bit of a French text, but didn't get very far.  I certainly can't blame the National Gallery for my own lack of language skills, but I can't imagine most other visitors would have fared any better.

On the plus side, one of the books displayed seems to be picturing a festival, and it reminded me of the View Painting exhibit I saw some years back.  I enjoyed that show and was happy to have it recalled to my memory.

Verdict: Unless you're a great fan of 17th century Dutch book illustrations (in which case, I advise you to run right out and have a look at this), you can safely skip this little show.

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