National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Bulletin 4 (II:2) 1964

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In search of Adriaen Honing

by Marcel Röthlisberger

Article en français

Page  1

The National Gallery of Canada has acquired a drawing by Adriaen Roning, a little-known Dutch artist whose few remaining works are particularly captivating. Born in Dordrecht in 1644, he was in Paris in 1663, then in Rome from 1667 to 1683 where he lived in the artists' quarter and was a member of the Dutch artists' fraternity, who gave him the name Lossenbruy. This name is inscribed by the same hand on the reverse of his drawings - probably a later addition for purposes of identification rather than written by the artist himself. One early painting and about fifteen drawings by Honing remain of his brief career. After his fortieth year there remains no trace of him.

The Ottawa drawing shows a schematically arranged mountainous landscape, Italian in character and of romantic taste. It is in fact a drawing after a landscape painting by Salvator Rosa (1615-1673), now in the Southampton Art Gallery. No engraving was made of this painting, therefore Roning must have worked directly from it or possibly from a preparatory drawing by Rosa. Three more drawings by Roning (in the Lugt, Witt and Albertina collections) display characteristics of Rosa's work, indicating that the Ottawa drawing is not an isolated case. Roning's schematic technique and the manner in which he employs detail spring from the Dutch tradition in Italy rather than from Rosa. The founder of this tradition in the seventeenth century was Bril and others such as van Nieuwlandt and Swanevelt. The discovery of reality and the study of light which occupied the artists of the first half of the seventeenth century were later replaced by refined conventions that lacked the spirit of the earlier years. Honing's work belongs to this later phase.

The drawings in the manner of Rosa represent only one side of Roning's art. The other, more personal and still further removed from the classic style that dominated the Roman landscape of that time, consists of a dozen studies after nature done at Tivoli. His highly personal approach, the great attention given to detail and the meticulous treatment of rocky surfaces and foliage push this manner to extreme abstraction where reality serves as a pretext for stylization. Honing is a miniaturist, a stylist, eminently a graphic artist.

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