The exhibition Works in Progress: Original Materials from the Netherlands opened at the Picker Art Gallery on January 30, 2020. As a response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Picker closed its doors to the public on March 14. This digital resource was created to provide continued access to the main themes presented in the exhibition. Viewers are invited to follow our investigation of the works’ original significance and centuries-long journey before coming to the Picker by looking closely at the objects themselves, as well as their recorded traces in archives and literature. Research remains a work in progress and the website—which will be updated through June 30, 2020 to share new insights with the public—considers both the potential and the limitations of art historical, archival, and object-based methods to shed light on all that remains unknown about museum collections.
The Picker Art Gallery’s Dutch and Flemish artworks constitute a qualitatively rich, yet largely unknown part of its collection. The donation of several old master paintings by Renate Schaefer (1924–2014) and Donald A. Schaefer ’46 (1925–2019) between 2011 and 2015 has greatly enhanced the museum’s holdings with works from these geographic regions. Originally collected in Europe by Renate’s uncle Max Oberlander (1898–1956), they offer a varied representation of so-called genre paintings in particular. These intriguing works are often deceptively realistic, constructing views of countryside living and feasting that range from the humorous to the idyllic. Other Dutch and Flemish artworks from the permanent collection further exemplify this visually seductive, yet illusory approach to the representation of subjects, including atmospheric landscapes and enigmatic portraits.