Gerard & Cornelis van Spaendonck: 18th Century Influencers
10 December 2018
In spring 2019, Het Noordbrabants Museum will be in full bloom thanks to the colourful exhibition The Smell of Success: Gerard & Cornelis van Spaendonck, Painters of Flowers in Paris. This exhibition tells the story of two Brabant brothers and their successful careers in Paris around the time of the French revolution. Recent research suggests that both flower painters enjoyed prominent positions within the Paris art scene around the year 1800. This discovery prompted Het Noordbrabants Museum to present their work in a wider historical context. The Smell of Success: Gerard & Cornelis van Spaendonck, Painters of Flowers in Paris runs from 26 April - 25 August 2019 at Het Noordbrabants Museum in ’s‑Hertogenbosch.
Brabant brothers Gerard (Tilburg, 1746 – 1822, Paris) and Cornelis (Tilburg, 1756 – 1839, Paris) van Spaendonck learnt the painter's trade in Antwerp. From there, Gerard went to Paris, followed later by his brother Cornelis. The two soon made careers for themselves as painters of flowers. At the time, there were no leading flower painters in Paris and so the brothers were able to distinguish themselves. King Louis XVI even appointed Gerard as royal miniature flower painter, whilst Napoleon would acknowledge his achievements with the Order of the Legion of Honour. For a brief period, Cornelis held the position of artistic director of the porcelain manufacture in Sèvres.
18th Century Influencers
Given the huge influence the brothers had over Parisian fashion, in today's terms, they would be considered influencers. The paintings of the Van Spaendoncks decorated the salons of the French aristocracy - none less than the private apartments of Marie-Antoinette herself - whilst their influential miniatures of still lifes with flowers on snuff boxes and powder compacts were in great demand among the wealthy bourgeoisie. The prints of their botanical studies were produced in high volumes and in multiple editions and colours, and sold for a considerable profit. As a result, the brothers eventually occupied a dominant and influential position within the art scene; a position that they were able to maintain both during and after the turbulent period of the French revolution.
Exhibition with largest permanent display
The exhibition displays still lifes of flowers, miniatures on snuff boxes, engravings with botanical studies, letters and portraits by both brothers from collections in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. With over 30 objects from its collection, Het Noordbrabants Museum possesses the largest collection of pieces by the Van Spaendonck brothers in the Netherlands. The exhibition is enhanced with historical objects relating to the eventful period in which they lived.
Growing international interest
International interest in the Van Spaendonck brothers has increased sharply in recent years. This was evident during the exhibition TheDutch in Paris 1789-1914, which was recently held at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Petit Palais in Paris. In addition, the recent acquisition of a stunning still life with flowers by Gerard van Spaendonck (on display at the upcoming exhibition) by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam received much media attention. Het Noordbrabants Museum has played an important role in the revaluation of both painters, particularly through its 1980 exhibition entitled Gerard & Cornelis van Spaendonck: Two Brabant Flower Painters in Paris. It was this exhibition that presented a comprehensive collection of pieces by the Van Spaendoncks to the Dutch public for the very first time. Since then, the collection of work by the two flower painters has expanded to encompass a total of no less than 33 objects. Almost 40 years on, the time has come for a new exhibition of these successful international artists.
The exhibition The Smell of Success will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue written by curator Paul Huys Janssen. A publication from Uitgeverij WBOOKS in Zwolle, the catalogue will be available at the MuseumShop and bookstore from 26 April 2019.