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Nymphs and Satyr, by William Bouguereau (Detail)
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  • Broader scope

    by Virgil Elliott

    Piet Spijkers wrote:
    Virgil, then you must be quite familiar with the studies by Van de Wetering I suppose. Good to hear about Honthorst. The Utrecht Caravaggists are among my favourites, among them somebody seldomly talked about, Jan van Bijlert.


    Yes, I bought Van De Wetering's book when it first came out, and have been following the activities of the Rembrandt Research Project with great interest, and the scientific analyses that are being done of old paintings by the various museums, foundations, and conservation groups. I try to stay current with everything that comes out on the subject, as I have for many years.

    Regarding Honthorst, his painting of Christ Before the High Priest is probably my favorite painting in the National Gallery, in London. There was a travelling exhibit of the Utrecht Caravaggisti that came to San Francisco a few years ago, and Honthorst was the star of the show, in my opinion, though there were quite a few others who were noteworthy as well, Van Baburen being one whose name pops into my mind immediately. There were so many excellent painters in Holland in the 17th century that it is no wonder all their names cannot be household words today, just from the sheer number of them being more than most people's memory banks could retain. Who has heard of Cesar Van Everdingen today? Or Jakob Ochterveldt, or Willem Drost, etc.? Holland has a rich tradition in painting, and I have the utmost respect for the 17th century Dutch artists, as I have for the last 48 years.

    An earlier publication that covered some of the same ground as Ernst Van De Wetering was Art in the Making - Rembrandt which was based on the National Gallery's analyses of the Rembrandt paintings in their possession. More testing and studies were subsequently done, which were reported in Van De Wetering's book, Rembrandt - The Painter at Work. I also follow the National Gallery Technical Bulletins for updates on their ongoing studies and tests on old paintings, as they are continually making new discoveries. Likewise the other museums and conservation science efforts.

    No artist who has ever painted well has gone unappreciated by me. It has been a lifelong obsession of mine to study them all, to seek them out wherever I can find them and learn all I can from them through their paintings. I have learned much more in museums and at my easel than any instructor has ever taught me.

    Virgil Elliott