The Subtle Art of Nature: Dutch Baroque Aesthetics and Collecting Practices


Claudia Swan, Associate Professor of Art History, Northwestern University

Friday, April 12, 2019, 5:30–6:30 p.m.
Recital Hall

What is more Dutch than a tulip? Prized possessions and fickle flowers, tulips were sought after passionately during the 1600s, especially in the Dutch Republic. Legends of the tulip craze, which resulted in a market crash in 1637, continue to circulate. Less well known than their exorbitant prices is the fact that tulips—and other natural specimens—were highly valued as works of art: it was said that in flowers and shells, nature painted. Swan presents a series of cases, including the tulip and nautilus shells from the Indian Ocean, about the intersection of art and nature in Dutch baroque aesthetics. This lecture explores the subtle art of nature during the era of Rembrandt and Vermeer through a discussion of gardens, collections, paintings, and luxury objects.

Claudia Swan is associate professor of art history at Northwestern University, where she teaches northern European visual culture (1400–1700), art and science, the history of collecting, and the history of the imagination. Among many publications, she authored The Clutius Botanical Watercolors: Plants and Flowers of the Renaissance and Art, Science, and Witchcraft in Early Modern Holland: Jacques de Gheyn II (1565–1629). She also writes regularly for the Times Literary Supplement. Swan received her PhD from Columbia University and has been a resident fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey; the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Berlin; CRASSH at Cambridge University; and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in Amsterdam. In January 2016 she was visiting senior fellow at Cambridge University, and in winter 2017, visiting fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study. Her forthcoming book is “Rarities of These Lands”: Encounters with the Exotic in Early Modern Holland.

Free; no registration required.

Hosted by the Department of Art History and Art at Case Western Reserve University and cosponsored by the Cleveland Museum of Art