27.11.2015  •  Art NEWS

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Painted Seduction! The first retrospective about the painter Godefridus Schalcken, rediscovered from the Golden Age, can be seen at the Wallraf Richartz Museum in Cologne

A star of the European painting scene in his own time: Godefridus Schalcken (1643 – 1706). Few artists have matched his ability to capture such magical moments in candle- or daylight on canvas so powerfully that they still compel attention three centuries later. Through 24 January, 2016, Wallraf Richartz Museum presents its large special exhibition 'Schalcken – Painted Seduction' inviting to a reassessment of this Baroque painter.

For the first-ever exhibition to survey Schalcken’s oeuvre as a whole, the Cologne gallery brought more than 80 paintings from museums and private collections all over the world to the city on the Rhein. The complete exhibition comprises one third of all preserved Schalcken works, many of which have never been exhibited for public audiences. The spectrum ranges from portraits to genre paintings and still lifes and even to biblical or mythological motifs. The exhibition tells the story in seven chapters of the life and oeuvre of the Dutch master, which were both shaped by ambition, sensuality, seduction, storytelling, and the mysterious.

Then and now, it is mainly the way in which Schalcken illuminates his motifs that fascinates viewers. Yet sophisticated lighting effects are not the only outstanding feature of his work. In addition, the elegance, sensuous appeal, varied subject matter, and technical brilliance of his paintings helped him to gain a reputation throughout Europe and make him one of the wealthiest artists, today we would probably use the term contemporary, of ‘modern’ times. Due to a change of taste in the art world of the 19th century, the painter was soon forgotten – something the Wallraf wishes to counteract. And we think: If not to counteract then at least to take a closer look at.

Works from around the world
- the best-known museums lending their pieces for the sake of the Schalcken retrospective include the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Old Masters Museums in Berlin, Kassel and Dresden, the Mauritshuis in The Hague, the National Gallery of Dublin, the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, the Uffizi Florence, the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, the National Gallery in London, the Copenhagen Statens Museum, the Munich Pinakothek, the Leiden Collection New York, and the National Gallery in Prague .

Schalcken's trademark is the way the virtuoso plays with lighting. To underscore this, PHILIPS will illuminate the showrooms for the first time in Germany with the newest generation of LED spotlights. The paintings in Cologne are thereby gently accentuated so that visitors can immerse themselves into the fitting diffuse Baroque atmosphere. The exhibition is among the cultural highlights of UNESCO's International Year of Light. In addition to special candlelight tours of the Schalcken exhibition, visitors can also expect an interactive lighting laboratory where they can stage themselves in the light of different light sources. The Wallraf also offers an illuminated guided tour of its permanent collection, to show how other famous artists worked with lighting in their works on canvas.


From preacher's son to court painter - Schalcken will not have seemed predestined for an artistic career when was born in 1643 into a family headed by a Protestant pastor. After his first apprenticeship years with the Rembrandt pupil Samuel van Hoogstraten, at the age of nineteen he entered the workshop of Gerrit Dou, the celebrated founder of the group of artists known as the Leiden ‘fine’ painters. The choice was wise: not only was Dou one of the best-paid artists of his time; his pupils would also dominate Dutch art in the late seventeenth century. Like many others, Schalcken drew on the illusionistic skills and wide-ranging store of motifs current among exponents of Leiden ‘fine’ painting; yet he developed his own unique style, notable for its pictorial wit, unusual adaptations of familiar motifs and striking effects of color and light. Despite economically and political difficult times, he single-mindedly pursued a career that took him from his native town, via Leiden and The Hague, to London and Dusseldorf – and finally to the big show in Cologne. His collectors include Johann Wilhelm Elector Palatine, the Medici in Florence, and the Danish Court in Copenhagen.

International Conference on Schalcken
- On 22 and 23 January,2016, numerous art historians worldwide will gather at Wallraf Richartz Museum to discuss Schalcken and his oeuvre. The detailed program and information on registration are available on wallraf.museum

Retrospective on painter Godefridus Schalcken . Wallraf Richartz Museum & Fondation Corboud . Through 24 January, 2016, Tuesday through Sunday: 10am–6pm . museenkoeln.de