In a gallery of maritime paintings at the Legion of Honor, individual 17th-century works — views of glassy, glowing surfaces of the sea, bright billowing clouds and huge sails soaring to the sky — seem to come from the same eyes and hands. It is possible to get lost in these kindred but varied images.
Yet other galleries feature still lifes, landscapes, history paintings and depictions of everyday life in the 1600s.
On view through Oct. 2, the exhibition “Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk Van Otterloo Collection” showcases the era when the Dutch Republic (present-day Holland and the Flemish parts of Belgium) had its Golden Age (“Gouden Eeuw” in Dutch).
At the time, the country was developing world-class trade, science, military and art, while shaking off Spain’s rule in a century of war, culminating in independence through the 1648 Peace of Westphalia treaty.
Coincidentally with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde,” where collectors have unusual prominence, the Legion exhibit also highlights the source of the artworks.
All 70 masterpieces of the exhibit come from a private collection, the best of its kind in the world, by Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo.
Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., organized the exhibit from the rare collection of artwork in superb condition and impeccable provenance.
Eijk van Otterloo was born in the Netherlands and Rose-Marie in Belgium. They met and married in the U.S., where they have close ties with New England. They have been sharing their collection, lending works from it to institutions around the globe.
San Francisco curator Lynn Federle Orr says in these paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, “We sense the achievements of a cohesive society, the benefits of honest labor, the warmth of a spare but comfortable home, the quiet beauty of a productive landscape. And occasionally we see ourselves (and our foibles) in the delightful antics depicted in Dutch genre scenes.”
Along with well-known masters such as Rembrandt (represented by “Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh”), Frans Hals and Brueghel the Elder, the exhibition also features superb paintings by artists less known in the U.S.: Gerrit Dou, Jan Steen, Willem van de Velde.
Hendrick Avercamp specialized in paintings of frozen Northern Europe during the period’s “Little Ice Age.” Rembrandt pupil Nicolaes Maes is represented by his “Sleeping Man Having His Pockets Picked.”
Aelbert Cuyp’s “Orpheus Charming the Animals” is a fine example of illustrating ancient Greek myths.
Discovery and exploration of these “new” 3-century-old greats is a special attraction of the exhibit.
IF YOU GO
Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection
Where: California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park, 100 34th Ave., San Francisco
When: 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., Tuesdays-Sundays, closed Mondays; closes Oct. 2
Tickets: $11 to $15
Contact: (415) 750-3600, www.legionofhonor.famsf.org