Rijksmuseum Twenthe - Het kunstmuseum van Enschede

The ideal as reality

The ideal as reality. Masterpieces from the Mauritshuis.

In the 17th and 18th century there seemed to be two types of landscape: the idealised landscape and the realistic landscape. But is this view a correct one? The exhibition Masterpieces from the Mauritshuis showed that also the so-called realistic painter composed his scenes according to his own ideals. The exhibition ran from 13 October 2012 to 2 March 2013.


In 2012 Rijksmuseum Twenthe received on loan a series of landscapes from the 17th and early 18th century. The masterpieces, painted by artists such as Jacob van Ruisdael, Karel du Jardin, Salomon van Ruysdael, Aert van der Neer, Jan van Huysum and Jan Baptist Weenix, were from the Mauritshuis, which was closed for a large expansion and renovation. The loan from the Mauritshuis enabled Rijksmuseum Twenthe to organise a unique presentation, in combination with a number of top pieces from the museum collection by artists such as De Moucheron, Ruisdael and Ruysdael, Van der Neer, Egbert van Drielst and Jacob van Strij. The exhibition was entitled The ideal as reality.

The idealised and realistic landscape

Whoever takes a closer look at landscape paintings from the 17th and 18th century, will roughly see two types: the idealised and the apparently realistic landscape. According to tradition, an artist chooses in an idealised landscape the finest or most beautiful parts from nature to make a perfect whole. A naturalist painter copies nature literally and includes all of its imperfections. This contrast in approach was the reason why artists painting idealised landscapes, and who found that their powerful imagination distinguished them from their colleagues who merely copied nature, valued their own work much more highly. But that view is a misleading one, because the so-called realistic painters selected and composed scenes according to their own ideals. Every artist made sketches to combine them in the studio, like a photoshopper avant-la-lettre, and form a tableau or scene that looked ‘probable', even though it didn’t match the reality of the original scene. In other words, both types of artist based their work on ‘the ideal as reality'.

'Look, what’s there is not there'

In his famous painting, Jacob van Ruisdael placed Bentheim Castle, which because of its vicinity has special significance for visitors to Rijksmuseum Twenthe, for compositional reasons on higher ground than where it actually stands. The viewer observes the scene and can say, despite his familiarity with this kind of art and using a variation on what the poet Nijhoff wrote, ‘Look, what’s there is not there'. The exhibition enables the viewer to experience how 17th and 18th century artists manipulated reality.

Opening festival

The ideal as reality was opened on 13 October 2012 during Autumn decoration 2.0 - Festival of the imagination. This festival was dedicated to innovation in art and science. ‘Imagination' was the connecting element in the festival. Visual artists and scientists have throughout the centuries observed, studied and imagined the world in their own way. They imagine and create the new by looking beyond the borders of their own disciplines. With Autumn decoration 2.0 Rijksmuseum Twenthe explored and investigated the fuzzy boundaries of visual art in the search for new discoveries.