Brenau Galleries Director Nichole Rawlings, right, explains to Brenau junior Rebecca Pjils of The Netherlands the significance of the 370-year-old Dutch painting recently added to the university's art collection.   (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Florida Developer Enhances Art Collection with Gift of 17th-century Painting

Nov 1, 2017
Kristen Bowman

Jacksonville, Florida, businessman David Gonzales enhanced the Brenau University Permanent Art Collection with the gift of a 1647 preliminary painting that led to the creation of one of the most famous works by the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age artist, Paulus Potter.

Titled Landscape with Cows, the 19 3/4-inch by 23 1/2-inch study reflects the pastoral images incorporated in the 92 1/2-inch by 133 1/2-inch finished work The Young Bull (The Dutch version of the name is De jonge stier), which hangs in the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Netherlands.

The Baroque-period painting is one of the oldest and most valuable additions to the university’s permanent collection of more than 6,500 paintings, drawings, photos, sculptures and other art works. A print by the Flemish baroque portraitist Sir Anthony van Dyck that hangs in the university library, dating from the 1630s, is slightly older than the Potter piece.

“This wonderful painting by a renowned Dutch Golden Age painter is an excellent example of an artist’s working method and how a smaller study may contribute to a larger, more formal work,” said Nichole Rawlings, Brenau Galleries director and manager of the permanent art collection. “Paulus Potter’s famous painting beautifully reflects a direct link between the subject and character of our newly acquired study and the finished masterpiece.”

Gonzales is president of Acorn Property Holdings, a commercial real estate venture in Jacksonville with holdings of about a million square feet of prime office property. Brenau leases space for its Jacksonville campus from Acorn.

“Brenau is a large and valued tenant in my portfolio, and I have enjoyed meeting and having dinner with President Ed Schrader and some of the other officers of the university,” Gonzales said. “I applaud your mission, and I am at a point now where I can start donating some art.”

Gonzales, an avid art collector, said Landscape with Cows, while a beautiful piece, doesn’t fit in with the rest of his focus and collection, which is 19th-century academic art and primarily that of William-Adolphe Bouguereau and his students and friends. As a 17th-century Dutch artist, Potter’s work and aesthetic differ greatly.

Dave Gonzales of Jacksonville, Florida, gave Brenau the classic Dutch painting Landscape with Cows, a study for Potter’s famous The Young Bull  that hangs in the Mauritshuis in The Hague. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

“He was really the first painter to focus on animals,” said Gonzales. “In the West, it was predominantly religious themes early on, and animals were primarily used essentially as visual props. They were emblematic of the unity of life, that we are all God’s creatures. But in terms of having the animals as the central part of the work, it wasn’t until Potter that an artist really focused on the animals.”

Although Gonzales had no connection with Brenau prior to establishment of the university’s presence in Jacksonville, Schrader said “it was clear from the outset that he and the university share a significant appreciation for the visual arts.” That became apparent at the open house celebration in 2015 for the Brenau Jacksonville facility, which – as do all Brenau locations – displays on virtually every available wall space selections from the university’s permanent collection, including works by Jacksonville-based painter and Brenau Master Artist Dennis Campay.

“I think Dave really liked the university philosophy that we, as much as possible, like to share our art with the world instead of keeping it locked away in a vault,” Schrader said. “We have really enjoyed the relationship that we’ve formed in the past three years and are extremely grateful that he is sharing this great work of art with us.”

The artist Potter, born in 1625, had produced about 100 paintings – mostly of animal subjects – by the time he died of tuberculosis at age 28. He completed The Young Bull when he was 22.

In addition to Potter’s life-size painting, the state-owned museum where it hangs features works by Dutch and Flemish artists of the so-called Dutch Golden Age of painting, including Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Steen, Johannes Vermeer and Peter Paul Rubens.

The 1870s-era French artist and critic Eugène Fromentin stated that the three most famous paintings in the Netherlands were Rembrandt’s iconic piece, The Night Watch, his painting in the Mauritshuis titled The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and Potter’s The Young Bull. Were Fromentin alive today, he probably would add to the list because of recent movies and literature regarding Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, which also hangs near the Potter painting in the Mauritshuis museum.

Brenau junior Rebecca Pjils, a marketing and human resource management major from Beek, The Netherlands, said she was delighted that the university had acquired the painting with such a strong link to her native land.  The Golden tigers varsity tennis player said that she had visited Mauritshuis as a school girl and probably saw The Young Bull there.

“My parents love art. We have lots of old paintings in our house and they are really familiar with Paulus Potter. They have seen several of his paintings in the Mauritshuis. I personally really like the Brenau painting even though it was a sketch. I think the painting had a lot of details and I think Paulus Potter was really talented.”

Schrader said Brenau plans to display Landscape with Cows on the Gainesville, Georgia, campus in the executive suite, which has become a sort of mini-gallery featuring prints and paintings by other artists in the permanent collection including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Eugene Delacroix, Alexander Calder, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella.