Detroit Institute of Arts Sunday Afternoon


Yesterday, Sunday, September 15, 2013, I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts(DIA) to visit some art I hadn’t seen in a while. It was a cool day with drizzly rain. Yard work was not an option. The sky was a mottled grey with occasional bursts of sunlight.

When the Detroit Emergency Financial Manager(EFM) decided on bankruptcy for Detroit, Christies Auction House visited the DIA. I guess it took something like that to make me pay more attention to the treasure I have available to me.

This time I opted for the Dutch Golden Age(17th century) when the Dutch Republic was important in trade, militarily and art. I so enjoy the way they used light in the paintings which was so much like the way the light was playing in the sky outside. We can take photos of the paintings as long as we do not use a flash. The Dutch Golden Age has quite a few galleries. Many of the paintings in the era were secular. It give us a glimpse into some of the ways life was lived in the era.

The painting above is called Game of Cards (ca. 1660) by Hendrik van der Burch. I noticed this one because then proportions of the children are the same as adults. So, although people tend to think of the era as an almost photographic depiction, it is not. The paint has a Persian rug, a pitcher modeled after Chinese pottery and a map of England. The servant most probably has been brought from Africa. It shows the global nature of Dutch Republic trade.

One of the other things I think of when I think Dutch Golden is landscapes. Possibly, because of the geographic location, the cloud formations can be striking. There were painting of pastures, seas, coastlines and more. Again the use of light to emphasize or illuminate was amazing. I took photos of two landscapes by Jacob Issaksz van Ruisdael. Both are oil paints on oak panels painted mid-17th century.

The first one is just called a”Landscape”( ca. 1646)and is probably what I think of when I think of Dutch landscape. It captures the excitement of the ever changing weather. It may be one of my favorites because I am living in a place with many different kinds of weather. Looking at the painting, you can see that he used so many colors in the sky. I am a cloud watcher and love the sky when it includes reds. According to the museum write up next to the painting, the picture is a snapshot in time and implies the impermanence of life.


The DIA has some guides to the art posted nest to the picture. They tell the viewer what the various pieces of the pictures mean. If you go to a present day gallery, the viewers sometimes talk about all the symbolism in pieces. I sometimes wonder if the artist was asked.

The next one is titled “The Jewish Cemetery”( ca. 1654). There is a lot of symbolism in this one according to the write up. The clouds imply rain and rebirth. The rainbow hope after a storm. The lighter clouds show the end of the storm as another beacon of hope. The ruins and tombs show impermanence and the inevitability of death. Here light is used to signify hope in the face of mortality. The way the Dutch Golden Age artists use light has always been a joy to my eyes.


In Rembrandt Harmansz van Rijn’s depiction titled “Christ”(ca.1649), he used a Jewish model which was not usual. He paid attention to historical accuracy when possible. In this painting, there is no obvious external source of light. The light shining from with in the portrait shows compassion. according to the write up.


There is so much in this section of the DIA that I could not do it justice. It is wonderful to have a museum that always leaves me wanting to come back.

As I was walking out, I heard the Sunday afternoon piano concert in the Kresge Court. I stopped by the DIA Café for lunch before heading home. I got to there 15 minutes before it closed so my selection were limited. The food is usually good so I went with the roast turkey dinner.


Since it was the end of the day, my plate got loaded. It was fairly good for a meal that had been in a steam table for a couple of hours. Actually, the mixed steamed vegetables were slightly al dente and surprisingly good and I got at least two portions.

After lunch( they were closed by the time I finished, so no doggy bag), I waddled to my car to go home. I had no desire to eat for the rest of the day.

5 thoughts on “Detroit Institute of Arts Sunday Afternoon

  1. I’m “liking” because I love that you have shared this artwork and I love your explanations – I’m a sucker for an art history lesson, any day! – but I hate that we may be losing some of these masterpieces. It’s beyond sad.

    Thank you for this post, Marsha 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s