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The Group Portraiture of Holland
The Group Portraiture of Holland

Alois Riegl
Introduction by Wolfgang Kemp. Translation by Evelyn M. Kain

Getty Research Institute
424 pages, 7 x 10 inches
94 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-0-89236-548-7
paper, Out of Print  

"This is one of the great books of art-historical thought."
Art in America

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Why do group portraits such as Rembrandt's The Syndics of the Cloth Guild and The Night Watch continue to fascinate modern viewers? In The Group Portraiture of Holland, art historian Alois Riegl (1858-1905) argues that the artists of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Holland radically altered the beholder's relationship to the work of art. Italian art based on "internal coherence," that is, a clear hierarchy of the figures depicted in the painting, ran counter to the Kunstwollen, or artistic will, of the artists of democratic Holland. To maintain the equality among the sitters in their group portraits, they introduced "external coherence," in which the figures in the painting actively engage the viewer outside the frame. In its earliest form, this interaction was no more than simple eye contact but in time the viewer is imagined playing a role in the action of the painting, for example, as an unseen applicant before the regents or regentesses of one of Holland's poor houses.

First published in 1902 and now translated into English for the first time, Riegl's study of the new role for the beholder in the group portraits of Rembrandt and Frans Hals, among others, opened up areas of inquiry that continue to engage scholars today.

Wolfgang Kemp is professor of art history at the University of Hamburg. His publications include The Narratives of Gothic Stained Glass and The Desire of My Eyes: The Life and Work of John Ruskin. Evelyn M. Kain is professor and chair of the department of art at Ripon College, Wisconsin. Her translations include Alois Riegl's Problems of Style.

This title is out of print. Please look for it at your local libraries and/or used bookstores.

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