A painting from the 17th century depicting pastoral images is joining the permanent collection at Brenau University.
Donated by David Gonzales of Jacksonville, Fla., the 1647 preliminary painting led to the creation of one of the most famous works by the Dutch Golden Age artist, Paulus Potter.
“This is a really great example of a particularly very well-known artist’s working method,” said Nichole Rawlings, Brenau Galleries director and manager of the permanent art collection. “This work is a smaller study for what would become a larger painting that is now housed in a very well-known museum in the Netherlands.”
Titled “Landscape with Cows,” the painting reflects the pastoral images incorporated in the larger, finished work, “The Young Bull.” The larger study hangs in the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Netherlands.
“This is something we are able to say to our art students and historians, as well as interested members in the community, that it is a great example of looking at how an artist might start with a smaller study, start with sketches and really develop a concept or idea into a larger work,” Rawlings said.
The Baroque-period painting, with an appraised value of $275,000, is one of the oldest and most valuable additions to the university’s permanent collection of more than 6,500 paintings, drawings, photos, sculptures and other artworks.
“Paulus Potter’s famous painting beautifully reflects a direct link between the subject and character of our newly acquired study and the finished masterpiece,” Rawlings said. “This is a really great way to discuss Potter’s working method, to discuss how artists’ of the Dutch Golden Age would work with methods, mediums and subjects. Overall it is a great academic piece, and it is a great addition to the collection in terms of what it brings.”
Rawlings said the permanent collection gives the gallery the ability to work with students in an academic way.
“We are able to encourage students to look closely at these works and then supplement information they can find about them with files and information we have as stewards of the collection,” Rawlings said. “All students have a great opportunity to do great research on these pieces.”
Gonzales is president of Acorn Property Holdings, a commercial real estate venture in Jacksonville with holdings of about a million square feet of prime office property. Brenau leases space for its Jacksonville campus from Acorn.
“Brenau is a large and valued tenant in my portfolio, and I have enjoyed meeting and having dinner with President Ed Schrader and some of the other officers of the university,” Gonzales said. “I applaud your mission, and I am at a point now where I can start donating some art.”
Schrader said “we, as much as possible, like to share our art with the world instead of keeping it locked away in a vault.”
Rawlings said they “make every effort possible to ensure that every piece in the permanent collection on display has information posted with it.”
“People can get a sense of what they are looking at and have the opportunity to go forth and do their own additional research on any pieces they are interested in,” Rawlings said. “We are really wanting to be a resource for our Brenau and Gainesville communities.”
Gonzales, an avid art collector, said “Landscape with Cows,” while a beautiful piece, does not fit in with the rest of his focus and collection.
“He was really the first painter to focus on animals,” Gonzales said. “In the West, it was predominantly religious themes early on, and animals were primarily used essentially as visual props. They were emblematic of the unity of life, that we are all God’s creatures. But in terms of having the animals as the central part of the work, it wasn’t until Potter that an artist really focused on the animals.”
Potter, born in 1625, had produced about 100 paintings — mostly of animal subjects — by the time he died of tuberculosis at age 28. He completed “The Young Bull” when he was 22.
“We have really enjoyed the relationship that we’ve formed in the past three years and are extremely grateful that he is sharing this great work of art with us,” Schrader said.
Schrader said Brenau plans to display “Landscape with Cows” on the Gainesville campus in the executive suite, which has become a mini-gallery featuring prints and paintings by other artists in the permanent collection including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Eugene Delacroix, Alexander Calder, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella.