POLK COUNTY – Staff and volunteers with the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College have been working with Dr. Willem Jan Hoogsteder and his Hoogsteder Museum Foundation staff for more than two-and-a-half years to put together the exhibit “Music and Dance in Painting of the Dutch Golden Age.”
That is roughly how long it took for Hoogsteder to convince around a dozen European households to temporarily exchange 27 paintings from their private collections to be showcased as part of the exhibit, to get the art ready for exhibit and to transport the art in heavy, secure crates from the Netherlands to Lakeland.
Many of the paintings, which are on exhibit through May 31, have rarely been seen by the public, Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College Director H. Alexander Rich said.
Historians say the Dutch Golden Age started roughly around the period when the Dutch gained independence from Spain, in 1648, after 80 years of war. The Golden Age is said to have lasted through the end of the century.
According to the Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder website, Holland was the richest of the seven Dutch provinces during its Golden Age. The Dutch were a powerful seafaring nation and Amsterdam was the financial center of the world at the time.
“Dutch prosperity and tolerance towards religious minorities made the Republic an attractive haven for scholars, musicians, writers and especially artists,” the website states.
Some of the paintings depict middle-class meals and music, others depict scenes involving the wealthy and still others offer insights to the Dutch Golden Age in numerous ways. The paintings are broken up into categories and self-guided attendees can read signs about the artwork on the walls or from a pamphlet-format handout.
Hoogsteder said it took a lot of work and cost a bit more to open an exhibit so far away from his home in the Netherlands. He went on to say that, other than those logistical challenges, putting together an exhibit in Lakeland isn't a whole lot different than organizing an exhibit in a like-sized city in Europe. Hoogsteder said one benefit of putting this particular exhibit together was seeing how enthusiastic some Americans are in wanting to see Dutch art.
“It's really nice, it's good to see that,” Hoogsteder said. “It makes (the exhibit) more rewarding than (one located at) a museum closer to home.”