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Dutch Golden Age Painting

Dutch Golden Age Painting Collage

Started: 1600

Ended: 1672

"I can't paint the way they want me to paint and they know that too. Of course you will say that I ought to be practical and ought to try and paint the way they want me to paint. Well, I will tell you a secret. I have tried and I have tried very hard, but I can't do it. I just can't do it! And that is why I am just a little crazy."

Rembrandt van Rijn Signature

Summary of Dutch Golden Age Painting

The Dutch Golden Age is one of the finest examples of independence breeding cultural pride. During the 17th century, driven by new freedom from Spanish Catholic rule, the Dutch Republic experienced a surge in economic and cultural prominence. An influx of trade boosted commerce, leading to the rise of a large middle and merchant class in the market for the proliferation of art that had cropped up in response to the burgeoning celebration of Dutch life and identity. Painting flowered as artists focused on everyday scenes of ordinary life, expressed through a growing cadre of genre works, all indicative of the thriving creative period.

Key Ideas

The Dutch Reformed church and a rising sense of Dutch nationalism informed the Golden Age. Art too took on independent directions, developing an emphasis on secular subjects, depicted not with Catholic grandeur, but emphasizing ordinary human life and realistic treatments. As a result, some scholars have referred to Dutch Golden Age painting as Dutch Realism.
Landscape painting exploded during the Dutch Golden Age, bringing with it an emphasis upon the unique characteristics of Dutch landscape features, villages, and rural life connected with a rising esteem for Dutch values. Many of these scenes were based on central "heroic" elements indigenous to the area such as a tree, windmill, or cloud-filled sky.
Genre painting experienced a magnificent evolution, with multiple creative sub-genres birthing a distinct look at the contemporary lifestyle, trends, and interests of the Dutch people of the time. Subjects ranging from lavish breakfast tables to group portraits to moments of merriment and little trifles helped establish an artistic document of the period.
The stilleven, or still life surged in popularity, utilized to imaginatively express both objects of beauty and the philosophical climate of the times through carefully composed arrangements and groupings. This dominant element of Dutch art developed into a number of subtypes of which floral still life, presented with scientific accuracy, was the most popular.
Dutch Golden Age Painting Image


Dutch Golden Age painting was informed by a number of artistic influences, including the landscapes and village scenes of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the work of the anonymous "Master of The Small Landscapes," and the Northern European Renaissance artists (such as Jan van Eyck, Albrecht Dürer, and Hieronymus Bosch and Utrecht Caravaggism). However, it was primarily a reflection of the Dutch Golden Age's cultural, economic, and scientific domination of the era.

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