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February 15: Andries Both: wonderful drawings


street scene []
Both: street scene     no date  []
 Every artist produces a range of work. Even the masters knock off a dud from time to time, and mediocre practitioners may be capable of the occasional fine piece. For an example of the latter we have an unexpected delight: the youthful drawings of Andries Both (1611-12 – 1641), a minor Dutch painter of genre scenes. I have little patience for this stuff, and Both’s paintings don’t change my mind. But he did some first rate drawings. Below are two examples from the Spring 1976 issue of “Print Review,” a long-deceased quarterly.

These have a free and bouncy line that describes stonework and treetops with equal facility.  He divides these views into white and one middle tone, held together with the net of lines. Here and there (see the chimney just inside the wall) he lets a shape fill in. Those solid little blacks make the middle tone bright by contrast, and all the white paper brighter still. Of course he was looking at many more than two tones, but he resists the temptation to get picky. Strong stuff.

"chapel and houses beyond a city wall" no date
Both  “chapel and houses beyond a city wall” no date  [Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett]

"drawbridge near city ramparts"  no date
Both  “drawbridge near city ramparts” no date [Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet]
Rembrandt "cottage" 1648 []
Rembrandt “cottage” 1648 []
Of course Rembrandt was doing similar pieces at about the same time. And yes, his are better: equally disciplined while more inventive and evocative. But we knew that, while Both’s are a delightful surprise.