dutch golden age (1581-1672)

Time Frame: 1581-1672

Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Main Artistic Contributors:

○ Franz Hals,

Rembrandt,

○ Johannes Vermeer,

○ Bartholomeus van der Helst‎,

○ Jan van Goyen,

○ Jacob van Ruisdael,

○ Jan Davidsz de Heem,

○ Pieter de Hooch.

Key Paintings:

The Night Watch, by Rembrandt;

○ The Vanities of Human Life, by Harmen Steenwyck;

○ Girl with the Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer;

○ The Laughing Cavalier, by Frans Hals.

Mostly Located At: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

context

A term applied to the entire 17th century of Dutch history, when a significant economic and societal prosperity, centred around the harbour of Amsterdam, occurred. Derived greatly from the commercial trades, the Dutch witnessed a proliferation of scientific innovations, (proliferation of philosophy, astronomy, physics and the foundation of microbiology)  liberal movements, (Holland becomes an independent republic) and the most praised art in the world.

This surge of development, prosperity and  unprecedented wealth emerged in the Netherlands (a country at the time of approximately two million inhabitants), in the midst of intermittent wars and a shortage of natural resources; prolific in exports and imports, Dutch merchants traded locally especially with the Caribbean and the East Indies; simultaneously, colonies trading fur, gold and tobacco were established in North America, Brazil, and South Africa.

Known for its intellectual and religious freedom, Amsterdam attracted thinkers from across Europe; René Descartes, established himself from France, opened the door to science; controversial works on theology, philosophy or science were often printed there and exported to the other European countries; there was a prolific publishing of maps and musical scores; the Dutch became the technological leader in various fields, with various significant discoveries in astronomy, botany, biology, and physics.

Accompanying the changes in all other fields, there was a proliferation of the discipline of painting and a greater appreciation of art. It is estimated that in 1650, more than 70,000 paintings were created annually; a profoundly prolific artistic production. Art was common and part of everyday life; as society grew wealthier, purchasing art testifying economical abundance became common in varying social classes, from tradesmen to clerks. Avoiding religious paintings, still life became the most popular subject, following the Baroque ‘memento mori’, which pointed to the frailty of life by depicting natural and symbolic decaying elements. Still life is mostly characterized by the works of Willem Claesz Heda and Willem Kalf. Other common subjects included mills and the countryside, communicating the pride that the Dutch had of their country. Painters guilds were a central piece of local economy; however, the abundance of art drew the prices down.

significance

The celebration of everyday life, reflecting the domestic tastes of the Dutch, portraying simple scenes in a modest manner and paying attention to every single detail. The works that define this artistic style were intended for decoration purposes, for their delicate and pleasing qualities, even though most are charged with symbolic content.

Still life celebrated abundance and wealth while simultaneously acting as a philosophical reminders for the impermanence of life; portraits immortalized the sitter and celebrated their economical power; but overall, art was a reminder that served to maintain the balance between the worldly and spiritual worlds.

Known for its intellectual and religious freedom, Amsterdam attracted thinkers from across Europe; René Descartes, established himself from France, opened the door to science; controversial works on theology, philosophy or science were often printed there and exported to the other European countries; there was a prolific publishing of maps and musical scores; the Dutch became the technological leader in various fields, with various significant discoveries in astronomy, botany, biology, and physics.

In the landscape category, with Jan van Goyen and Jacob van Ruisdael; Emanuel de Witt notorious for his paintings of architecture; Frans Hals was notorious for portraits. The Dutch painters Gerard Dou and Peter Paul Rubens worked in other settings, responding to aristocratic needs across Europe.

main concepts and/or techniques

Celebration of everyday life, simplicity, humility, modesty (realism of human life), and celebration of their country’s values and traditions.

Despite the scientific and medical advancement of the era, people continued to suffer from fatal illnesses such as the plague; there was a profound sense of disease and mortality; even Rembrandt lost three of his four children before they became adults; the presence of mortality in day to day life, translates greatly to the choice of subjects especially with the still life.

Bodegón (1611) by Clara Peeters

Often used symbols of corruption and mortality, and the prolific use of Vanitas paintings symbolise the inevitability of death; it also featured elements of life which were unknown, rare, or expensive, such as exotic fresh flowers, special cheeses, books, and others; the symbol of the lemon, for example, is believed to symbolically represent the bitterness of overindulgence. extravagant bouquet in a simple setting, combining rare and common flowers, and displaying the blooms without overlapping to show each flower rendered with scientific accuracy – reflection of the enthusiasm for collecting global botanical specimens.

An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life (c. 1640) by Harmen Steenwyck

A lively market for portraits developed in the Republic from the beginning of the 17th century, due to the rise of the bourgeoisie and the patriciate, but it was also increasingly common for less wealthy people to have a portrait made. Portraits were seen as a status symbol and something with which to survive death. They were usually commissioned, often for special events such as a wedding. At this time, portraiture varied from the traditional Self-portrait (a stand-alone work of art, where the artist to shows who he was), Group portraits (a new phenomenon at the time, initially very formal and sleek in structure, then more lively, bringing the artform to a unique height) and the Tronies.

The Laughing Cavalier (1624) by Frans Halls

Self-Portrait at the Age of 63 (1669) by Rembrandt

Girl with a Pearl Earring (c. 1665) by Johannes Vermeer

At the beginning of the 17th century, artists painted what they had observed, often from sketches made on the spot, outdoors. Slowly developing in style, the main aim was to emphasize the greatness of nature (“God’s creation”), which was often accentuated by adding separate elements, such as a heroic tree, a mill or a tower. Landscapes came in different types: the river landscapes were very Dutch, with boats on the water and the silhouette of a city in the background. Dune formations and winter landscapes were popular, as were the typical Dutch pastures with cattle.

The Windmill of Wijk bij (c. 1670) by Jacob Isaacksz van Ruisdael

This genre was considered the highest form of painting in the 17th century. Their aim was to provide a suggestion of mobility, which did not alter the fact that Dutch history art was later accused of merely portraying posing figures. Thematically, Rembrandt and his followers specialized in biblical scenes in particular, often choosing far-fetched subjects, usually depicted strongly anecdotally, with a lot of attention for a psychological defining moment. The Dutch painters concentrated mainly on moving the viewer or portraying a moment of intense intimacy.

impact and legacy

Artists:

Movements:

  • Baroque,
  • Northern Renaissance,
  • Utrecht Caravaggism.

Artists:

  • Eugene Delacroix,
  • J.M.W. Turner,
  • John Constable,
  • Gustave Courbet,
  • James Abbott McNeill Whistler,
  • Édouard Manet,
  • Edgar Degas,
  • Camille Pissarro,
  • Claude Monet,
  • Vincent van Gogh,
  • Paul Cezanne,
  • Emil Nolde,
  • Giorgio Morandi,
  • Henri Matisse,
  • Auguste Rodin,
  • Thomas Eakins,
  • Pablo Picasso,
  • Frank Auerbach,
  • Francis Bacon.

Movements:

  • Romanticism,
  • Barbizon School,
  • Hudson River School,
  • Realism,
  • Impressionism,
  • Tonalism,
  • Luminism.
  1. It is estimated that between 1600 and 1700 about 5 million paintings were created in the Dutch context alone.

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key works

Artist: Floris van Dyck
Title: Still-Life with Fruit, Nuts and Cheese
Date: 1613
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 49.5 x 77 cm
Location: Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, Holland

Artist: Harmen Steenwyck
Title: An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life
Date: c. 1640
Medium: Oil on oak
Size: 39.2 x 50.7 cm
Location: National Gallery, London, England

Artist: Rembrandt
Title: The Night Watch
Date: 1642
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 379.5 x 453.5 cm
Location: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Holland

Artist: Rembrandt
Title: Lucretia
Date: 1666
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 110.2 x 92.3 cm
Location: Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Artist: Bruegel the Elder
Title: Flowers in a Wooden Vessel
Date: 1607
Medium: Oil on wood
Size: 98 x 73 cm
Location: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Austria

Artist: Johannes Vermeer
Title: Woman Holding a Balance
Date: c. 1664
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 39.7 x 35.5 cm
Location: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

Artist: Clara Peeters
Title: Bodegón
Date: 1611
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 52 x 71 cm
Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Artist: Jacob Isaacksz van Ruisdael
Title: The Windmill of Wijk bij Duurstedde
Date: c. 1670
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 83 x 101 cm
Location: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Holland

Artist: Frans Hals
Title: The Gypsy Girl
Date: c. 1630
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 83 x 101 cm
Location: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Holland

Artist: Carel Fabritious
Title: Goldfinch
Date: 1654
Medium: Oil on panel
Size: 33.5 x 22.8 cm
Location: Mauritshuis Museum, Holland