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MAESTRO VAN WITTEL - Dutch master of the Italian cityscape

26.01.2019 - 05.05.2019

Caspar van Wittel (1653-1736) was born in Amersfoort, moved to Italy around 1673, gained name and fame there and did not return to the Netherlands. Today, the vast majority of his oeuvre is in Italian, English and Spanish collections. With the exhibition 'MAESTRO VAN WITTEL - Dutch master of the Italian townscape', Museum Flehite and Kunsthal KAdE honor this virtually unknown master in the Netherlands with a large retrospective.

Hans Wilschut
Caspar van Wittel

Artists: Caspar van Wittel, Hans Wilschut

Kunsthal KAdE and Museum Flehite are introducing the Netherlands to a world-renowned Dutch master who remained unknown to many in homeland Netherlands.

"The exhibition constitutes a triumphant rehabilitation in Van Wittel's hometown." **** (NRC Handelsblad) 

Caspar Adriaensz. van Wittel (1653-1736), or Gaspare Vanvitelli, was celebrated and honored in his second homeland of Italy. He painted Rome, Naples and Venice in great detail in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and influenced famous Italian painters of cityscapes such as Canaletto and Bellotto. Van Wittel was born in Amersfoort, left for Italy around 1673, gained name and fame there and did not return to his homeland. Today, the vast majority of his oeuvre is in Italian, English and Spanish collections. In the Netherlands there are only a few drawings and one gouache: 'View of Amersfoort' in Museum Flehite. With the exhibition Maestro Van Wittel - Dutch master of the Italian cityscape from January 26 through May 5, Museum Flehite and Kunsthal KAdE honor this virtually unknown master in the Netherlands with a major retrospective. It places his extensive oeuvre in the context of his Dutch apprenticeship and his influence on the later Italian Vedutists.

Robbert Roos, director of Kunsthal KAdE: "It feels like a forgotten son is returning to Amersfoort."

"His strong point is the flawless rendering of architecture in the right perspective" (Trouw) 

Canon of Dutch Art History
The exhibition at Kunsthal KAdE covers the whole story of 'Van Wittel.' The places he painted, the style he developed, his Dutch roots, his noble patrons and his undeniable influence in Italy. With this retrospective, Museum Flehite and Kunsthal KAdE want to give Caspar van Wittel, Gaspare Vanvitelli, his place in the canon of Dutch art history, as maestro of the (Italian) cityscape.

exhibits flehite van wittel view of amersfoort lowres 1 Caspar van Wittel, View of Amersfoort, c. 1712, gouache on vellum on panel, 27.5 x 48 cm, Museum Flehite, Amersfoort. Purchased with the support of the Rembrandt Association (thanks in part to its BankGiro Lottery Acquisition Fund, its Utrecht & Gooi Circle and its Prints and Drawings Theme Fund), VSB Fund, K.F. Hein Fund, Municipality of Amersfoort, Flehite Archaeological Society, Forest Fund, Stichting Vrienden van Caspar van Wittel, Museum Flehite and twenty Amersfoort individuals

A contemporary perspective
As part of the exhibition, Rotterdam photographer Hans Wilschut has been asked to photograph, in the footsteps of Caspar van Wittel, some of the places in Rome, Naples, Venice and Amersfoort that Van Wittel frequently captured. Hans Wilschut is also part of the exhibition City Images at Museum Flehite on display from Feb. 9 through June 10. 

Bart Rutten (director of Centraal Museum) on Caspar van Wittel in the program Now to be seen! (duration: 5:58)
Bart Rutten (director Central Museum) on Caspar van Wittel in the program Nu te zien! of AVROTROS. Duration: 5:58 minutes.

Dutch period
Caspar van Wittel was a pupil of Matthias Withoos, who in turn had trained at Jacob van Campen's school of painting at the Randenbroek estate in Amersfoort. Withoos' masterpiece is his View of Amersfoort - a commission in 1671 from the then city council -, painted during the time Van Wittel was apprenticing with him, so it is possible that the young apprentice - he was 16, 17 years old at the time - collaborated on it. Together with Withoos, Van Wittel moved to Hoorn in 1672. He thus became close to the painters Jan van der Heyden and Gerrit Berckheyde, who in Amsterdam and Haarlem developed a 'pure' registration of cityscapes. This 'Dutch' way of painting is echoed in Van Wittel's work.exhibits palazzo zevallos gaspar van wittel veduta di roma con piazza del popolo Caspar van Wittel, View of Rome with Piazza del Popolo, 1718, oil on canvas, 56 x 109 cm, Intesa Sanpaolo Collection Gallerie di Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, Naples

Inventor of the Italian cityscape
In the company of another young painter - Jacob van Staverden - Van Wittel travels to Rome around 1673. There he joined the Dutch "painter's gang" of the Bentvueghels, a group that had formed an artists' colony in the eternal city for decades. There he learned about the work of Lieven Cruyl and Abraham Genoels, who made topographic drawings of the city. He also comes into contact with Cornelis Meyer, a mechanical engineer trying to secure a commission from the Pope to build water works along the Tiber. He asks the young Caspar - now in his mid-twenties - to assist with the illustrations for the manuscript. One of the motifs Van Wittel drew is Piazza del Popolo, the square where Van Wittel arrived in Rome from the north. He would eventually paint this square view some fifteen times in his career, always from the same angle.

''The exhibition teaches that part of the appeal of a canvas by Van Wittel lies in the fact that he mastered two genres to perfection: figure piece and the cityscape'' (The Telegraph)

From then on (around 1680), Van Wittel began to record other places in Rome with his characteristic precision: the Tiber with its bridges and the Angel's Castle on its banks, Piazza Navona, the Colosseum, St. Peter's Square, the Quirinal, the Villa Borghese, churches, streets, smaller squares. He often repeated these compositions several times as well, working from one basic drawing. From Rome he went to Naples, to the countryside around Rome (Tivoli), to Florence and to Venice. In the lagoon city, he captured the view of San Marco and the Doge's Palace from the water. He painted the majestic church of La Salute at the beginning of the Grand Canal. This has since become standard repertoire in Venetian city painting, but Van Wittel painted it for the first time.exhibitions rouen musee des beaux arts vanwittel tevere castel santangelo Caspar van Wittel, View of Rome with the Castle of Angels, date unknown, oil on canvas, 53 x 111.2 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen

Van Wittel inspires Canaletto
Around 1719, the young Venetian painter Antonio Canal was in Rome to paint some scenery with his father. It is very likely that during this time he met Van Wittel and saw some of his Venetian cityscapes. Inspired, Canal, who soon became known as Canaletto, devoted himself entirely to this subject. At the time, the Grand Tour - an "educational journey" for young nobility - was taking off, and Canaletto, along with his cousin Bernardo Bellotto, became the painter of Venetian cityscapes, which were eagerly purchased by travelers. In this too, by the way, Van Wittel pointed the way, for by then he had already provided several grand tour travelers - including Thomas Coke - with such 'postcards'. Upon returning to England, Coke built Holkham Hall in north Norfolk, inspired in part by his Italian trip and the work of the architect Palladio.

From his arrival in Rome, Van Wittel developed an extensive network of patrons: noble Roman families such as Sacchetti and Colonna - in whose palaces he also sometimes lived - as well as the Spanish nobleman Medinaceli, who stayed in Rome as ambassador, became viceroy of Naples in 1696 and ordered a total of 35 paintings from Van Wittel, mainly views of and around Naples.

"Beloved master briefly returns" (Het Parool)

Photographer Wilschut follows in Van Wittel's footsteps
As part of the exhibition, Rotterdam photographer Hans Wilschut was asked to follow in the footsteps of Caspar van Wittel and photograph some of the places in Rome, Naples, Venice and Amersfoort that Van Wittel frequently captured. Some of these places have remained essentially the same, some have been completely transformed. Just as Van Wittel liked to include the then contemporary city life in his cityscapes, Wilschut will show the people of today in the iconic settings.

Download here An article on Hans Wilschut's project from the exhibition catalog.

Hans Wilschut is also part of the exhibition City Images at Museum Flehite on display from Feb. 9 through June 10. 

Works from international collections in Amersfoort
The exhibition features about 45 paintings and gouaches and about 30 drawings by Van Wittel from Italian, English, Spanish, German and French collections. In addition, there are about 30 paintings and drawings by Dutch and Italian masters.

Peripheral program, catalog and children's book
A fringe program will be set up around the exhibition in cooperation with the Friends of Caspar van Wittel Foundation. A catalog in Dutch and English will be published by Bekking & Blitz. It is the first time that a monographic book on the artist is published in these languages. The catalog costs €29.95. 

Also appearing with this exhibition is the picture book "Caspar with the Eyes. This children's book was written by Maret van Esch and illustrated by Marije Koelewijn and was made possible with the support of Wilco Books and Magazines, IJs van Vitelli and Optiek Verkerk.  

The exhibition MAESTRO VAN WITTEL - Dutch master of the Italian cityscape is possible thanks to the generous support of: the Turing Foundation, the Mondrian Fund, Fund 21, the Municipality of Amersfoort, the State Department of Cultural Heritage and the Province of Utrecht.

Dutch Masters in Utrecht & Amersfoort
Did you know that Caspar van Wittel belongs to the Dutch Masters? Everyone knows Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer but there are several artists who have played a major role in art history. This winter, for example, the Centraal Museum is devoting an exhibition to the Utrecht Caravaggists. They inspired the Dutch Masters with their strong light-dark contrasts. Read more at the Central Museum website >>



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