Of varied plumage
Seventeenth-century watercolours by Andries Beeckman

March 1, 2014 – May 11, 2014 Deze tentoonstelling is afgelopen
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The Kunsthal Rotterdam, incooperation with guest curator Menno Jonker, proudly presents Of Varied Plumage. Seventeenth-Century Watercolour Drawings by Andries Beeckman. The exhibition reconstructs a journey that Dutch artist Andries Beeckman made in the Dutch Golden Age to Batavia (Jakarta), one of the Dutch East India Company's main trading posts.

As he travelled, Beeckman made a comprehensive and colourful study of the people and animals of Indonesia. His work presents a remarkably clear picture of the huge variety of ethnic groups he came across, with all their differences. Each is drawn in accurate detail, many recorded for the first time ever. Beeckman emphasises their differences without stereotyping or prejudice.

True-to-life illustrations

Beeckman's watercolour drawings of the various native and non-native ethnic groups were an uncommon phenomenon in the Dutch Golden Age. Most artists preferred to copy outdated prints back at home rather than face the dangers of a journey to ‘the East'. One artist who did dare to brave the adventure, however, and in doing so meet the demand for true-to-life illustrations, was Andries Beeckman. The Kunsthal exhibition is offering a once-only chance for visitors to see the original drawings, which have since found their way to various parts of Europe, and compare these with the monumental painting that Beeckman made as a result of his travels. Many of the ethnic groups portrayed by Beeckman include Chinese traders bargaining their wares, market girls hawking fruit and vegetables, Europeans strolling and Javanese men playing football. The one-and-a-half meter wide canvas is on special loan from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and is to be reunited at the Kunsthal with another Beeckman gem, an album containing 55 watercolour drawings from the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal in Paris.

Fascination with the exotic

Together with prints, paintings, shipping charts, quotes, illustrated travel journals and drawings of Beeckman's homeward journey via Madagascar and South Africa, Of Varied Plumage offers a rich overview of a ‘globalised' seventeenth-century world. The ethnic diversity of Batavia in the Golden Age certainly equalled that of today's Rotterdam with its kaleidoscope of ethnicities and cultures. With this exhibition, the Kunsthal Rotterdam gives visitors the opportunity to travel with Beeckman and experience the fascination felt by the Europeans of his day during their very first encounters with the exotic and the unknown.

03 - Andries Beeckman, Madagaskar-paradijsmonarch © Parijs BnF Arsenal.jpg
Malagasy paradise flycatcher, 1658-1664

Publication

The exhibition Of Varied Plumage. Seventeenth-Century Watercolour Drawings by Andries Beeckman is accompanied by a richly-illustrated book of the same name, published by Vantilt and the Stichting Nijmeegse Kunsthistorische Studies. The book chronicles the results of a research project carried out by the Art History Department at Radboud University in Nijmegen on the drawings of Beeckman. The album containing 55 watercolour drawings is included in full colour in the book itself.

Educational programme

The exhibition will be accompanied by an extensive supporting programme. Families and children can travel through the Kunsthal like seventeenth-century explorers, reporting on their discoveries and learning, through Beeckman, about the city of Batavia and its exotic inhabitants. In February, the Kunsthal will be starting the MuseumJeugdUniversiteit (Children's Museum University), a project for children between the ages of 8 and 12. The first series of four lectures includes themes like the Golden Age and the VOC (Dutch East India Company). 

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02 - Andries Beeckman, Ambonese dansende krijger in geel gewaad © Parijs BnF Arsenal.jpg
Ambonese dancing warrior in a yellow dress, 1658-1662
01 - Andries Beeckman, Gezicht op Batavia © Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.jpg
View on Batavia, 1658-1662