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‘Portraying the Golden Age’ Exhibit Opens Jan. 17 at The Fralin Museum of Art

Art during the Dutch Golden Age, which spanned the late 16th and 17th centuries, gave portraiture a place of great prominence.

While young painters in the Netherlands primarily focused on portraiture, there were many other artists, mostly draftsmen and printmakers, whose works could be bought for comparatively lower prices than their painted counterparts.

To trace the blossoming of this drawn portraiture in the Netherlands during the 17th century, The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia presents “Portraying the Golden Age,” the first of a two-part installation running from Jan. 17 through April 27.

The installations mark the first time an exhibition devoted exclusively to a selection of drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection has been shown in the mid-Atlantic. According to The Fralin exhibit’s curator, John Hawley, the collection is regarded as one of the most important collections of Dutch drawings in private hands.

The exhibit exemplifies both the technical mastery of the artists that produced these drawings and the Abramses’ discerning eye, and introduces visitors to drawn portraits and “tronies,” or head studies, as well as comparable prints from The Fralin’s collection.

Tronies were presented in bust- or half-length formats and often executed from life in the manner of conventional portraits. They were appreciated chiefly as studies of various figural types whose subjects often remained anonymous.

The flourishing of printed tronies in particular suggests that these works became increasingly popular in the 17th century. Printed portraits of historical, political and religious figures likewise afforded buyers the opportunity to acquire depictions of public figures, both past and present.

“Buyers often wanted prints of people with whom they identified, which they could either hang on the wall or collect in albums,” said Hawley, The Fralin’s Luzak-Lindner Graduate Fellow for 2013-14.

The second installation, “Portraying the Golden Age: Prints from the Collection,” running from May 2 through Aug. 10, will look at the production of portraits and tronies in print, a medium that enabled the creation of numerous examples of the same image.

Printed works from The Fralin’s collection document these phenomena in an array of techniques, including important works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Anthony van Dyck and Jan Lievens.

Hawley will present two lunchtime talks about the exhibition. The first, which will discuss the first exhibit from the Abrams Collection, will be held at the museum on Feb. 11 from noon to 1 p.m. The second talk will address the second part of the exhibit, which contains works from The Fralin’s collection, and will be held May 13 from noon to 1 p.m.

Hawley will offer a Saturday special tour at the museum on April 26 from 2 to 3 p.m.

Hawley will present an evening lecture as well. Details on the lecture’s date and location will be posted on The Fralin’s website.

The Fralin Museum of Art, located at 155 Rugby Road, one block from the Rotunda, is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

The museum’s programming is made possible by the support of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation.

The exhibition is made possible through the support of the Dennis M. Luzak Fellowship Fund, the Office of the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts, Albemarle Magazine and Ivy Publications LLC’s Charlottesville Welcome Book.

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