Inner Worlds and Late Hours: Nocturnal Imagery in Dutch Genre Painting

May 21, 2021

Join Nicole Elizabeth Cook for her lecture: Inner Worlds and Late Hours: Nocturnal Imagery in Dutch Genre Painting.

In the many nocturnal genre scenes created in the Netherlands during the 1600s, sometimes called “night pieces” (nachtstukjes), figures seem to slowly emerge from shadows, barely revealed by the flicker of candles or lamps. By pushing the limits of the dramatic lighting contrasts and naturalism valued in this period, artists crafted a heightened viewing experience that almost provides the same sensation as letting your eyes adjust to a darkened room. Paintings set at night offer additional insights into the inner worlds highlighted in this exhibition. The late hours provided a unique sense of privacy and freetime and many people saw night as a time particularly suited to either personal reflection, or intimate encounters (as is still often the case today). Artists and writers, meanwhile, used the nighttime for practical training and study as well as creative thought, giving artworks that depict nocturnal themes a special bond with 17th-century creative and intellectual practices.

Nicole Elizabeth Cook, Ph.D.

Nicole Elizabeth Cook (she/her/hers) is a museum professional and a scholar of early modern European art. She is interested in interrogating the traditional centering of Renaissance and Baroque art in museums and finding new ways for these works to resonate with today’s audiences. At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, she currently facilitates academic engagement with regional art history departments and programming for fellows. She holds a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Delaware, an M.A. in Art History from Temple University, and a dual B.F.A. in Studio Art and Art History. She has previously had curatorial positions at Science History Institute and The Leiden Collection and she regularly teaches and guest lectures at the college level. Her focus installation, What Can Paintings Tell Us?, is currently on view at The Philadelphia Museum of Art.