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Culture

What's On at Europe's Museums

Dutch painters have the 'write stuff' in Dublin; Japan bares its soul in Bonn; Birmingham takes a look at the body; a show in Utrecht asks: "How new is neo?"

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The e-mail of the 17th century, on view in Dublin

Love Letters: Dutch Genre Painting in the Age of Vermeer

National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

Just as e-mail today dominates written communication, the writing of personal letters became widespread and fashionable in the 17th century. Although letters had long existed, the notion that they could convey private feeling and emotions suddenly captured the popular imagination. During this period, not only was Holland the most literate country in Europe and a leading publishing center, it was also the focus of an explosion of epistolary activity. In turn, 17th-century painters became the first to depict anonymous people writing, reading, dispatching and receiving letters. Leading painters such as Gerard ter Borch, Gabriel Metsu, Frans van Mieris, Pieter de Hooch and Johannes Vermeer made the letter a central feature of their scenes of everyday life, defining the subject and creating memorable images that would influence generations of painters to come. The exhibition includes over 40 paintings drawn from both public and private collections around the world.

"Love Letters" runs from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2003. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 to 17:30, Thursday until 20:30, Sunday 12:00 until 17:30. Closed Good Friday and December 24-26.

Beauty and Soul of Japan

Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn

The artistic identity of Japan was essentially formed from the 15th to the early 17th centuries. From the highly cultivated lifestyle of the shoguns and the samurai / bushi, the noblemen and the warlords, a unique aesthetic emerged. It manifested itself in architecture, painting, and sculpture, but also in weapons, ceramics, the "way of tea" and the Noh-theatre. The exhibition examines the complexity of this golden age of Japanese art with important objects from the collection of the Tokyo National Museum and with reconstructions of traditional tea rooms and a shoin study room. The tensions between a concept of indirect, discreet beauty and magnificent splendour, between rural and urban life, between the intimacy of a tea ceremony and the public splendor of a noble residence, permit intriguing new insights into the great tradition of the art of Japan.

"Beauty and Soul of Japan" runs through October 26, 2003. The museum is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:00 to 21:00; Thursday through Sunday and holidays, 10:00 to 19:00.

The Human Condition: The Figure in British Art 1950-2002

Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, Birmingham

'The Human Condition' explores the ways in which artists have interpreted and depicted the human figure over the past half century. From carefully observed figure studies, surreal portraits and deeply symbolic visions to expressive records of humanity, nightmarish scenes of childhood and striking interpretations of human suffering. The exhibition shows a broad range of styles, subjects and ideas all inspired by the human figure and what it is to be human. Featuring works by Francis Bacon, Craigie Horsfield, Shani Rhys James, Helen Chadwick and Lubaina Himid, as well as special guest artists Marta de Menezez, Barbara Walker, Raymond Mason and Ana Maria Pacheco.

"The Human Condition" runs through February 29, 2004. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday 11.30 to 16:00, closed Monday except Bank Holidays.

NEO: Abused, Forgotten, Remodelled

Centraal Museum, Utrecht

Ever since the excavation of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 1750, elements of the classical style have been reincorporated and reimagined in all forms of contemporary culture, from the visual arts to music and cuisine. Thanks to these "neo"-styles, the most exclusive art works of antiquity found their way to the man on the street, for example, the continuously evolving neo-styles in fashion, pop music and interior design or the revivals of various "looks," from hippie to punk. Utrecht's Centraal Museum illustrates the concept of neo in its broadest sense. Occupying the nine galleries of the Centraal Museum’s stables complex, the exhibit shows just how much there is to the idea of "neo" -- not only in the visual and fine arts, but in architecture and film as well.

"Neo" runs through Jan. 4, 2004. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11:00 to 17:00. Closed April 30, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.