MFA Boston Launches Center for Netherlandish Art to Further Study and Appreciation of Dutch and Flemish Art

CNA Scholarship Featured in New Gallery, on View to the Public November 20

Innovative Research Center—First of Its Kind in the U.S.—Will Host Fellowship Program and Events

BOSTON (November 18, 2021)—The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), announces today the debut of the Center for Netherlandish Art (CNA), an innovative research center that will promote the study and appreciation of Dutch and Flemish art by stimulating interdisciplinary research and object-based learning, nurturing future generations of scholars and curators through a residency fellowship program, and hosting a wide range of academic and public programs. Centrally located on the ground floor of the MFA, the newly constructed CNA houses a library of over 43,000 volumes that will open to the public by appointment starting in January 2022, offices for staff and scholars, and spaces for seminars and events. The new facilities will serve as a hub for activities that draw connections across the Museum’s resources and offerings: rich collections of art from around the globe, a state-of-the-art Conservation Center, and public programs that serve wide audiences. The CNA was founded in 2017 through a landmark donation to the MFA from two families, Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo and Susan and Matthew Weatherbie, whose transformative gift also included 114 paintings that elevated the Museum’s holdings into one of the country’s foremost collections of 17th-century Dutch art and significantly strengthened its representation of Flemish works from the period. The CNA’s opening coincides with the MFA’s unveiling of seven newly renovated galleries for Dutch and Flemish art, which include a rotating space dedicated to presenting research developed at the CNA through collaborations with academic partners. The Center’s activities will continue to ramp up over the coming months with a CNA Scholars Day in early 2022 and a series of public programs in the spring.

“The Center for Netherlandish Art is a bold, new initiative to create an interdisciplinary research center in the middle of one America’s great art museums. Through a range of scholarly programs and public gatherings, the Center will encourage students, scholars, conservators and collectors to collaborate in sharing new research and perspectives on Netherlandish art of the 17th century. Our goal is to deepen the connection of existing audiences to a pivotal moment in the history of Western art, while encouraging a new generation to find sustained meaning in depictions of the land and leisure of the Netherlands in a time of economic and social transformation,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. “Linking the interpretation of art to its care, the Center will connect a world-class library and study area to newly reinstalled galleries and a state-of-the-art Conservation Center, which together will encourage the close looking that will open new possibilities for study and appreciation.”

As a research center within a major art museum—fully integrated into the MFA’s program, governance and facilities—the CNA provides rich opportunities to forge new partnerships, create new audiences for Dutch and Flemish art, and foster relationships between the U.S. and the Netherlands and Belgium for generations to come. The Center has received support from the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Delegation of Flanders to the USA—both funds will bring international scholars to Boston to participate in CNA programs and research initiatives. Among the CNA’s growing list of regional and global partners are the Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), Harvard Art Museums, the Netherlands Innovation Network and Northeastern, Harvard, Yale and Brown universities.

“Our vision is for the CNA to be an international leader in the field of Dutch and Flemish art—through the quality of our conversations and programs, and our sustained commitment to excellence. To begin to achieve that vision we have developed a rich constellation of programs and partnerships that position the CNA as innovative, collaborative, multidisciplinary and accessible,” said Christopher Atkins, Van Otterloo-Weatherbie Director of the CNA.

CNA Innovation Gallery

Opening on November 20, 2021 as part of a suite of renovated galleries showcasing Dutch and Flemish art, the inaugural presentation of the rotating CNA gallery analyzes the competitiveness of the Dutch art market in the 17th century. The gallery features two displays created in collaboration with professors and graduate students from the Experience Design Lab and the Co-Lab for Data Impact at Northeastern University. Aligning Artworks in Time focuses on the immense volume of works of art produced in the Dutch Republic from the late 16th through the early 18th centuries. Productive Lives offers a view of individual artists and the number of artworks they produced over the course of their careers. The two visualizations work together and help visitors understand the density of the market and how artists developed different strategies for navigating the competitive environment. Featuring signature still lifes by Willem Claesz. Heda (1594–1680) and sweeping views of Haarlem by Jacob Isaacksz. van Ruisdael (1628 or 1629–1682) among others, the installation explores how painters developed instantly recognizable themes and styles to adapt to the demands of the market. Future presentations will include exhibitions curated by students from a graduate art history course at Brown University—taught at the CNA in January 2022—and a graduate exhibition seminar at Yale University that utilizes MFA objects.

Fellowship Program

The CNA Fellowship Program will support and nurture future generations of scholars and specialists in Netherlandish art, with a focus on object-based research and learning. The fellows will advance their professional development through mentorship from the MFA’s staff and access to the Museum’s rich collection, resources, research facilities and international network. Through collaborations with local universities, they will also become part of an active learning community in Boston. As a multidisciplinary initiative, the fellowship program will be open to participants from a variety of professional and academic sectors, encouraging creative thinking and new scholarship. The fellows will also regularly share their research through public programs and online initiatives, underscoring the CNA’s mission to promote appreciation of Netherlandish art. During the inaugural year, the CNA will host up to three fellows to conduct research on the MFA’s rich collections, for periods ranging from six to 12 months.

Launching in September 2022, an annual fellowship supported by the Delegation of Flanders to the USA will support a scholar focused on Flemish art and culture, bringing them to Boston for six months to conduct research at the CNA. The Flanders State of the Art Fellowship is open to pre- and postdoctoral candidates from around the world. Applications are greatly encouraged from all identities and nationalities, and Belgian citizens and those working and studying at Flemish institutions are highly encouraged to apply.

Digital Resources

The CNA has partnered with Smarthistory, a leading provider of online educational content, to expand access to the MFA’s collection of Dutch and Flemish art. In the first phase of the partnership, staff experts in Boston worked with Smarthistory to create a series of object-based videos on paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn and Anthony van Dyck, a Blaue atlas and a gilt silver coconut cup, among other objects on view in the new galleries. Subsequent phases will expand on this first iteration with additional content to provide remote and online users with high-quality scholarly content presented in an accessible and engaging manner. 

CNA Library

As part of their transformative 2017 gift, the Van Otterloos donated to the MFA the Haverkamp-Begemann Library—encompassing more than 20,000 monographs, catalogues and rare books assembled by the late art historian Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, a mentor to many active scholars and curators of Dutch and Flemish art in the U.S. The CNA Library joins this renowned collection with related resources in the historical holdings of the MFA’s William Morris Hunt Library on Dutch and Flemish art created between 1400 and 1800. Numbering over 43,000 volumes—including rare books, early auction catalogues, dissertations and recent monographs—the library forms a major resource for scholars and researchers from around the world.

Academic and Public Programs

Upcoming academic programs at the CNA include a Scholars Day in early 2022 that will introduce regional and international colleagues to the MFA’s newly installed galleries devoted to Dutch and Flemish art and the Center’s programs and activities as well as CNA Student Sessions, which will begin this December. Organized by students for students, these sessions will engage students in conversation with experts about their current work and academic, personal and professional journeys.

The CNA’s public programs will encourage visitors to discover connections and relevance in Netherlandish art and culture. Inaugural in-person programs at the Center, which will take place in the spring of 2022, will invite Museum visitors to join a themed gallery tour of the new Dutch and Flemish galleries in combination with an exclusive visit to the new CNA Library and Forum. Tours will encourage close looking, and prompt discussion of contemporary issues that the objects on display raise from different perspectives. These programs will build on the success of several programs hosted by the CNA in the time leading up to its official launch, which brought speakers from partnering institutions in the Boston area and abroad—including Harvard University, Harvard Art Museums, Providence College, the University of Leiden and the Rijksmuseum—to the MFA. In 2021, the CNA partnered with Harvard Art Museums and the History of Art and Architecture Department at Harvard on a virtual four-part series focused on art museums and the legacies of the Dutch slave trade, as well as with the Netherlands Innovation Network on a virtual program about how Dutch landscapes and seascapes can propel conversations and inspire creative thinking about climate resilience.

The Summer Institute

In the summer of 2023, the CNA will partner with the Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) and Harvard Art Museums to inaugurate a biennial program for emerging experts in Netherlandish art. In recent years, major gifts of art to the MFA and Harvard Art Museums as well as the founding of the CNA have transformed Boston into a new hub for Dutch and Flemish art in the U.S. The Summer Institute will build a new transatlantic collaboration, expanding on a well-established summer program initiated by the Rijksmuseum and RKD, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2023. The new program will convene a group of 12 to 16 scholars to attend a multiweek course that will take place in both Boston and the Netherlands, focusing on best practices and future trajectories in research outputs including exhibitions, public programming, interpretation, and print and digital media.

The new Summer Institute will differ from existing offerings by shifting one of the focal points to public-facing scholarship. Participants will emerge from the Summer Institute with enhanced tools and perspectives for conducting innovative object-based research and for using their expertise to increase public appreciation for Dutch and Flemish art. Functioning as an incubator for young talent, over time the program will build a global cohort of emerging specialists trained in making historical art relevant for a contemporary audience—fostering the next generation of museum, university and research professionals while promoting diversity and inclusion in these fields.

Collection Sharing

The CNA will facilitate sharing the MFA’s world-renowned collections of Dutch and Flemish art through a robust program of loans and exhibitions, notably in collaborations with partner institutions that encourage the study of Netherlandish art. A pilot program with Yale University is in development, through which a group of MFA objects will travel to the Yale University Art Gallery, accompanied by an exhibition seminar to develop a concept that the loans support, undergraduate and graduate courses that utilize the objects when they are on campus, and curatorial training opportunities for students.

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Founded on February 4, 1870, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), stands on the historic homelands of the Massachusett people, a site which has long served as a place of meeting and exchange among different nations. The Museum opened its doors to the public on July 4, 1876—the nation’s centennial—at its original location in Copley Square. Over the next several decades, the MFA’s collection and visitation grew exponentially, and in 1909, the Museum moved to its current home on Huntington Avenue. Today, the MFA houses a global collection encompassing nearly 500,000 works of art, from ancient to contemporary.

The Museum is located at 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115. For more information, call 617.267.9300, visit mfa.org or follow the MFA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.