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Gabriel Metsu [Hardcover]

Adriaan E Waiboer
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: £35.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

13 Aug 2010
Gabriel Metsu (1625-1667) employed an unusual variety of styles, techniques, and subjects, making him a particularly difficult artist to characterize. From his early days in Leiden until his death in Amsterdam at the height of his career, his unparalleled mastery of the brush allowed him to paint a remarkable range of history paintings, portraits, still lifes, but most of all, exquisite genre paintings. And whatever his subject matter, his work reveals an unrivalled talent for imbuing figures with a human and personable character. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Metsu held a place as one of the most celebrated painters of the Dutch Golden Age, and his works were acquired for noble collections throughout Europe, while his contemporary Johannes Vermeer was almost unheard of. In the 20th century their positions were reversed as Vermeers reputation soared. This enlightening book resituates Metsu as one of the leading genre painters of his time. It offers a portrait of the age through his patrons and his wide network of contacts and colleagues in Amsterdam, as well as analysis of Metsus technique as a draftsman and as a painter, and it documents the fashions and fabrics of the time through his work.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st Edition edition (13 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300167245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300167245
  • Product Dimensions: 30 x 25 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 868,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"In Adriaan Waiboer's exhibition volume . . . the reader immediately realizes the superb quality of this artist's handling of the brush . . . Additional excellent essays in the volume take up topics relevant not only to Metsu but to Dutch art in general."--Susan Donahue Kuretsky, "Historians of Netherlandish Art"--Susan Donahue Kuretsky "Historians of Netherlandish Art "

About the Author

Adriaan E. Waiboer is Curator of Northern European Art at the National Gallery of Ireland.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By AH
Format:Hardcover
The fact that the reputation of Gabriel Metsu has plummeted in the 20th century is a validation of modern aesthetic discrimination and connoisseurship.

"A Man Writing a Letter", the picture on the cover, is arguably the most attractive painting in the book as it's restrained palette and composition, and the highlights on the subject's face bring it closer in spirit to Vermeer's style. Whereas Vermeer's works manage to achieve a rare level of balance both in color and composition through some indefinable artistic alchemy such that even his paintings displaying a range of relatively bright colors (such as "The Love Letter") manage to maintain an effortless rhythm and harmony, Metsu's use of color and the play of light on his figures render his works largely decorative in appearance, while there is often no particular focus in his paintings, so that the eye wonders over an image that never achieves the conviction and quiet repose of the Vermeers.
If this analysis sounds harsh, I should add in mitigation that Metsu's works are extremely competent and decorative, and apart from a few errors of perspective such as the bizarrely distorted cello in "Saint Cecilia" on page 20 as well as the poor rendition of the right side of her face and her right shoulder, his paintings are generally inoffensive. If one is looking for small pleasures in the examination of contemporary costume and surroundings, there is some entertainment to be had from his works. However, one would have to look elsewhere for art that transcends the prettiness of the journeyman's solid renditions.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book 13 July 2011
Format:Hardcover
I really loved the exhibition in The Rijks and the book is amazing. Great illustration and the book is written very well.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality Book 27 April 2011
By Film is more than entertainment - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Because current fashions in art are just that, it is simple to digitally enhance reproductions of the works of popular artists to suit the living room table. Nonetheless, the fact remains that coffee table books of 17th Century Dutch art must leave one wondering why the picture in the book looked so much better than that of the artist himself. This is true of Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals. The works in this book however, like those in most books published by Yale University Press, are not for the table, they are for those interested in what they will see or have seen in the gallery. Most art of the Dutch was painted in the studio in less than ideal lighting conditions. My bet is life looked more as Rembrandt portrayed it than the ever present sunlight in Vermeer's attic. Even in the warmer, sunnier climes, paintings are dark, as Velasquez demonstrates. It was a dark world, and in the North particularly so. Paint was not easily made, varnish not of the highest chemical composition, paintings were abraded, trimmed to fit the decors, painted on panels or canvasses that were often held together with similarly poor materials, and impasto worn away. Restorers of earlier centuries had no clue what they were doing, and as often ruined works as repaired them. I find the reproductions in this work beautiful. One does not color a work painted in monochrome, a Dutch style of subtle beauty, for the viewer's preference. See cover of Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus as example of monochrome style, or any comprehensive Dutch art book.

The articles in the edition are interesting, but it does assume the reader is familiar with the history of painting throughout the United Republics, and Leiden, Holland, in particular, and of the often misleading iconography of Dutch painting, if taken for fact. For the casual reader, this may not be where one would want to start his studies. Metsu differs in many ways from the genre painter of Leiden or Delft; he is a Catholic in a Calvinist world, exposed to Caravaggism from his time in Utrecht, and influenced by "peasant scene" painters of Haarlem. He is a master of fine clothing, proper behavior, open markets, children, fine and loose brush work, still life and portraiture as well. He shares many of the techniques with the great painters before and during his own time such as Molenaer, ter Borsh, Steen, van Ostade, and Dou, and Vermeer too.

I do not lightly dismiss this edition as one of poor or average quality, nor do I advise this work more or less than another. If you love Dutch art, this is a book which you may regret not owning when it becomes difficult to obtain. But for a coffee table book, it's not bad either. For centuries Metsu has been regarded as a great master, and is overshadowed by only one, and he from Leiden as well. However, I have no argument that a $200+ book might be of higher quality.

Purchased by preorder from Amazon for a steal. Upcoming works can be viewed at Yale University Press for preorder at Amazon. (I have no connection to either Amazon or Yale).
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor production values and a pedestrian artist 29 Jan 2011
By AH - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The fact that the reputation of Gabriel Metsu has plummeted in the 20th century is a validation of modern aesthetic discrimination and connoisseurship.

"A Man Writing a Letter", the picture on the cover, is arguably the most attractive painting in the book as it's restrained palette and composition, and the highlights on the subject's face bring it closer in spirit to Vermeer's style. Whereas Vermeer's works manage to achieve a rare level of balance both in color and composition through some indefinable artistic alchemy such that even his paintings displaying a range of relatively bright colors (such as "The Love Letter") manage to maintain an effortless rhythm and harmony, Metsu's use of color and the play of light on his figures render his works largely decorative in appearance, while there is often no particular focus in his paintings, so that the eye wonders over an image that never achieves the conviction and quiet repose of the Vermeers.
If this analysis sounds harsh, I should add in mitigation that Metsu's works are extremely competent and decorative, and apart from a few errors of perspective such as the bizarrely distorted cello in "Saint Cecilia" on page 20 as well as the poor rendition of the right side of her face and her right shoulder, his paintings are generally inoffensive. If one is looking for small pleasures in the examination of contemporary costume and surroundings, there is some entertainment to be had from his works. However, one would have to look elsewhere for art that transcends the prettiness of the journeyman's solid renditions. (Metsu's depictions of village life - as opposed to the genre scenes of the wealthy - are particularly uninspiring, although he seems to have a knack for painting chickens as against his particularly incompetent representations of cats!)

Then we come to the production values of the book and this is where it really fails. The reproductions are very dark and not terribly well focused. This is particularly evident when one compares identical paintings from this book and those reproduced in the much superior tome on Vermeer by Albert Blankert, John Michael Montias and Gilles Aillaud (Overlook Duckworth 2007). "The Love Letter" is reproduced in page 42 of Metsu, and page 143 of Vermeer. In the former, the reproduction is so dark that the word Meer on the wall to the right of the maid is almost completely invisible, and the woman's skirt looks brown rather than yellow. A similar comment is to be made regarding "A Woman Writing" on page 40 of Metsu, and page 144 of Vermeer. In the former, the brilliant yellow of the coat is all but gone, and the morning light has turned into dusk. Even more sad is the fact that "Lady reading a letter with her maidservant" by Metsu can also be seen on page 142 of the Vermeer, and the picture is much prettier than the darkened version in the Metsu book which makes the light look like an overcast English day. Although the comments about Metsu's work tending to the pleasant rather than the transcendent still hold, one suspects that a book on Metsu with the production values of the tome on Vermeer would almost be worth owning, if only to delight in his rendition of fabric and costume.

All in all, if one is at all demanding, this book is not worth buying. If you want to see the works of a few contemporaries of Vermeer, the Overlook Duckworth book will provide adequate examples until such time as a high quality publication on the subject appears on the market.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best quality of reproductions 10 Oct 2013
By Larisa Voronina - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The quality of reproductions in this volume leaves much to be desired. The colors are on a darker, almost muddy side, which makes some images, portraits especially, look unnatural and downright strange: "A Woman Writing a Letter", c. 1662-4 is a telling example. The not-so-high quality of reproductions becomes obvious when one lays this book next to another volume on Metsu: "Gabriel Metsu: Life and Work: A Catalogue Raisonne."
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 20 Aug 2014
By Marcelle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Beautiful book.
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