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"(As good) As I Can"      



"Als Ich Kan"

is an inscription found on many paintings
attributed to Jan Van Eyck. The literal
translation is " As I Can". The inferred
meaning: "As Good As I Can". This motto
is the artist's pledge to produce a work worthy
of the subject- that beauty,
is  intrinsic to everything;
everything  is equal.




William Morris, the greatly revered proponent  of the  Arts and Crafts movement of the nineteenth century also made  "Als Ich Kan" his credo.   He and his compatriots felt the technology of the industrial revolution a great evil. Theyattempted to revive handicrafts and the guild system of
Medieval times.

  Jan Van Eyck, also known as Jan of Bruges   
 born 1390 ? in the Maastricht region
died 1441, Bruges.

 Jan Van Eyck Web-Link

Highly successful Flemish painter whose work is pivotal in the development of the modern world from the medieval .


"A painting by Van Eyck is as perfect in itself as a cut crystal resplendent with deep colors. No movement, no suffering, but rather the happy unfolding of an existence. By this quality he ennobled all that he touched. A fruit upon a window-sill becomes like a jewel, a bronze platter or a chandelier are transformed
into  precious  objects.
Especially in  his  interior,
nothing looks common."

                H. Beenken, 1941


  " In his work we see what was to become a major aspect of the whole of Flemish Art: an incomparable feeling for the material aspect of each and every object that he painted. He was most anxious to render faithfully even the most insignificant details."
                                                                             ---Valentin Denis 1961

No less an authority than David Hokney postulates the use of the camera obscura and other mechanical devices by Jan Van Eyck,
(along with many other artists).

The ability to utilize technology without being overwhelmed by it; that is, to use all this paraphernalia as a tool, an aid to discover, interpret, and comprehend the "thingness" of an object- therein lies true genius.


"Jan of Bruges opened the eyes of those painters; but they, by imitating only his manner and not thinking any further, have left our churches full of works which do not resemble good and natural things,
but are only dressed in beautiful colors"
                                                   L. Lombard in a letter to Vasari, April 27, 1563

The economic and political evolution of   The Netherlands   was accompanied by a since unequaled appreciation for art among the general population. Artists depicted life everywhere, Art was everywhere.


"Good paintings could be bought in Rotterdam fairground booths, and  were wont to grace the walls of even the humblest houses."
---J. Huizinga

An entire "visual language" was evolving.

       By the 17th century...
The Netherlands had come into it's "Golden Age,"  a republic---not a monarchy--- with a strong mercantile class. Now the role of the Artist emerged. In true  democratic tradition artists (themselves mostly of the lower middle classes) depicted all aspects of daily life with an equality and reverence previously unimaginable.


Johannes Vermeer .. painter ... object and image;
relationships-- of men and women, Man and God,
our highest aspirations - our basic needs;
the spiritual vs. the material, and a host of other societal traits.
The very same society and culture we see in Vermeer's paintings accompanied the explorers.. exploiters... entrepreneurs.... colonists...
to the New World.

"Is Vermeer (his artistry transcending some political levels) also the pinnacle of the great Dutch/Belgium contribution of the very radical notion of the original bourgeoisie - that is, the true radical first "middle class" - those with power, money and influence, that WAS NOT inherited as a member of royalty.  Of course, this very class assumed a conservative role as it established itself.  But in it's beginnings, the very existence of this group (with all it's egalitarian and democratic values) was a gigantic radical event. And the role of the individual, with all her complexities, rose even higher. Vermeer is the champion of the complex individual, living in an intricate cultural context - an idea that even today academics can barely grapple with."--- M. Cohen, 2000

The purpose of these photographs is to present Architecture (and The Decorative Arts ) as symbols of Dutch life.  Objects whose meanings and functions say something definitive about how the Dutch lived, why they pursued certain goals, or expressed certain values. These values permeate Seventeenth Century Dutch Culture. One is struck by how similar these values are to those espoused by Americans today:

1) The primacy of the family for organizing and realizing social and economic goals.

2) A liberalism that encouraged individual economic gain.

3) The importance of religious beliefs and of the the institution of the church for reinforcing ethnic identity; yet at the same time a tolerance of others' beliefs and behavior.

These aspects of Netherlands society attracted a diverse European population of ambitious immigrants; especially after their own revolution over 400 years ago. When New Netherland was founded shortly thereafter, it also attracted a wide range of people from throughout Europe seeking the same liberal opportunities, and formed a population that, more than any other colony, had a diversity akin to what we see in modern America. The result has been a free wheeling entrepreneurship which has greatly affected the spirit and organization of American society. Thus it is in the Dutch Republic that we see historical parallels to our own values more so than from the monarchies of Europe out of which most of our ancestors were only to glad too emigrate. In that sense the attractiveness of Netherlands society promoted the emigration of the ideals of Dutch culture to America.