You become what you behold

The Way You Hear it is the Way You Sing it by Jan Steen

The Way You Hear It Is The Way You Sing It, Jan Steen

On Sunday, on another visit to New York City, I’m heading to the Frick with a couple friends from New Jersey to see the Vermeers and this painting in particular, on tour from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague. At first glance I thought it was a remarkably precise Hals, for a number of reasons, but then discovered otherwise. It’s more or less an illustration of a Dutch proverb about parental responsibility, which more than one painter interpreted in similar scenes of domestic partying. The title comes from a Dutch proverb: ‘as the old sing, so pipe the young’ (soo voer gesongen, soo na gepepen). (What you do in front of the kids.) The motivation behind this sort of painting is almost the antithesis of what drives me to paint: it’s symbolic, narrative, moralistic, and essentially conceptual. Yet the way it’s executed, the color, and especially the light, is remarkable, at least in this photograph. I’m hoping they’re even more impressive when I’m standing in front of it.


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