A bird spotters’ paradise
Starting on 18 December, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam will exhibit six paintings from its own collection by Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695). Hondecoeter was the best-known Dutch painter of what are known as the ‘bird pieces’ of the 17th century. These paintings depict various types of birds, both indigenous and exotic. The presentation entitled ‘Melchior d’Hondecoeter: Fowl’ contains a number of paintings commissioned by Stadtholder-King William III (1650-1702) for his palaces at Soestdijk and Het Loo and recently restored by Rijksmuseum.
Hondecoeter was the first Dutch painter who managed to depict birds with a high degree of ‘liveliness’. He painted works featuring poultry and game still lifes and invented a new theme in the art of painting: park landscapes with exotic birds. Hondecoeter’s paintings featured geese (brent, Egyptian and red-breasted), fieldfares, partridges, pigeons, ducks, magpies and peacocks, but also African grey crowned cranes, Asian sarus cranes, Australian sulphur-crested cockatoos and even an Indonesian greater noble parrot and two grey-headed lovebirds from Madagascar. Most birds painted by his predecessors took up static positions in the scenery, but Hondecoeter seemed to capture them in a snapshot style, as a result of which they could seemingly fly away or walk off any second. The animals on his canvases also show some interaction among themselves, creating exciting confrontations.
The exhibition will be until 9 March 2009.