Nelson-Atkins’ Dutch Exhibition Opens

A new exhibition explores class divides in 17th century Dutch society and brings a celebrated artist’s work to Kansas City for the first time.

Johannes Vermeer’s “A Lady Writing.” National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer, 1962.10.1.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s new “Reflecting Class in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer” exhibition, running now through May 29, is the first to explore 17th ­century Dutch painting through the lens of social class.

Featuring works from Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, Gerard ter Borch and Gerrit Dou, the exhibition also marks the first time a painting by the celebrated artist Johannes Vermeer will be seen in Kansas City.

“The Nelson-Atkins is delighted to allow the first opportunity for many visitors in this region to see an original Vermeer,” says Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO and director of the Nelson-Atkins. “This exhibition eloquently portrays the distinctions between classes and gives great insight into the social fabric of the culture. The study of 17th-century Dutch painting is rich in interpretive approaches, and the paintings in this exhibition illuminate the complex relationship between art and the society for which it was made.”

“Reflecting Class” is divided into sections depicting the upper, middle and lower classes, reflecting a cultural divide borne of the 17th century, which was both a time of great economic growth and wealth disparity.

Visitors are encouraged to study the paintings, looking for clues in how the people carry themselves, what they are wearing, and whether they are working or idle. Presentations, performances and talks related to the exhibit are scheduled during its run to offer additional perspective. Guests can also stop by and see Dutch Masters in the Nelson-Atkins permanent collection. Rembrandt’s ”Young Man in a Black Beret” is on view, as well as paintings by Frans Hals and Gerrit Dou, two artists who are represented in the exhibition.