Dutch Golden Age Painting

Rembrandt's "The Night Watch".
Rembrandt's "The Night Watch".

The Dutch golden age was a crucial period in Dutch history wherein Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. This period occurred for the greater part of the 17th Century after the independence of the Netherlands from Spain immediately after the Eighty Years’ War that came to an end in 1648. For the remaining half of the century, the Dutch concentrated on development and peace. Various trade and exploration charters were on the rise as the Dutch explorers looked to settle abroad and discover new territories. The newly formed Dutch republic thrived as war heroes were decorated, and the art world was at its peak.

5. Overview of the Style -

Much of the Dutch golden age painting occurred during the European period of Baroque painting, and possesses many of the same characteristics. However, the style is quite different from most Baroque paintings in that they lack the idealization and use of splendor that is typical of this period. This painting was characterized by detailed realism which is inherited from early Netherlandish painting. During this period, there were fewer religious paintings which were forbidden by Dutch Calvinism. A huge variety of genres were present and divided into various specialized categories such as landscapes, townscapes, peasant life, landscapes with animals, flower paintings, maritime paintings and still-life of various types.

4. History and Development -

The Dutch golden age painting began during the 17th Century and went on until the end of the Independence War. During this period, the Dutch republic was the most prosperous country in Europe and led in most industries as well as military, trade, science and art. Due to the sharp break with the monarchist and cultural traditions mainly associated with the Netherlandish provinces, there was large scale transfer of populations from the northern provinces to the artistic centers of Flanders. This led to a largely successful development of Dutch art

3. Notable Artists and their Works -

The beginning of the Dutch golden age witnessed one of the greatest ever movements in painting, during which time the school of Dutch realism was established. Oil painting was established during this period with notable artists such as Vermeer and Rembrandt representing human creative achievement. Still painting and naturalism became more profound in their works. Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) was one of the most notable artists who depicted human emotions and feelings in their works. Rembrandt was brilliant in use of shadow and light to depict realism. This is epitomized in "The Night Watch" painting. Some of his other works include the "storm of the sea of Galilee", "Bathsheba at her bath", "Danae", and "self-portrait with two circles". Vermeer’s famous works include the "girl with a pearl earring", "the milkmaid", "the art of painting", and "the girl with a glass of wine". Vermeer painted domestic interior scenes of middle class life. He used very expensive pigment in his painting and with great care which made him produce fewer paintings. He is renowned for his mastery in the use of light in his works.

2. Decline and Subsequent Successive Movements -

During the early days, five to ten million works of art were produced during the century of the Dutch golden age. This, however, came to a decline, and only around 1% of the paintings have survived into contemporary times. The production of paintings leveled off and then went down after the war with England from 1665 until 1667.The art market decline affected some cities in the Netherlands which led to the eventual decline of production. Successive movements such as Utrecht's art community stopped growing.

1. Legacy -

The Dutch golden age of painting in the 17th Century has gone down as one of the most remarkable periods in the history of visual art. The mastery of color, details and light effects produced quality paintings which set examples for future generations of artists. The portraits of everyday scenes and the middle class were gradually taking the place of the portraits of the rich. Dutch golden age painters such as Rembrandt van Rijn continue to be celebrated, and their works continue to inspire the current and up-and-coming generations of artists with their style and uniqueness.


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