The Dutch Mona Lisa: Portrait of Isabella Brant
There's a distinct quality to Dutch/Flemish portrait painting from the epoch of the late 1500s and the mid to late part of the 1600s that is familiar and easy to recognize. This premise is (as a basic statement) obvious enough, while the complexity behind it often remains hidden in the fear of being overly elemental. I remember years ago being sort of look down upon by colleagues when confessing my love for J.S. Bach, or (apparently a worse admission) W.A. Mozart. Back in those days, the composer du jour was Gustav Mahler, and to speak of anything besides Mahler's "sweeping harmonies" or (what I consider an even more over-used cliche) "haunting melodies" was academic sin. The same, I think, applies to visual art. There are names that come and go in vogue according to the intellectual tides; I suppose that's a normal enough pendulum swinging process. What I find rather tragic is how the academic pendulum swings one way or the other often relegating certain names to obscurity or oblivion. While I don't consider Peter Paul Rubens to be in the "forgotten category," I do fear that this inclusive/exclusive process (whether real or imagined) can do more harm than good to artists like Rubens.
The theory that academic circles sway with trends and tastes is one that I have strong opinions about. I apologize ahead of time for those who feel the statements made here offend. It is difficult to understand why academia functions in such manner. I can only assume that this is so due to the strong opinions of academics and the often conflict-generating nature of the discourse. There are times when I feel intensely grateful to be out of there.