Lesson 18: Dutch Art in the Golden Age

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What You Will Learn:

  • Explore All Art Movements and Periods

    You will learn about all the leading art movements and periods, such as primitive art, ancient Greek art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art. There is also a lot of attention to non-Western art, such as Islamic Art, Hindu Art, Chinese Art, Oceanic Art and African Art, and the globalization of the art world.

  • All Famous Artists and Their Masterpieces

    The course covers important artists like Sultan Muhammad, Fan Kuan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Utagawa Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh, Ilya Repin, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy and many more, and discusses their most influential works.

  • Cultural and Historical Context

    Our courses also focus on the study of the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts in which artworks are created.

  • Various Media and Techniques

    You will explore different art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and digital art.

Introduction to this course:


The 17th century was – and still is – known in the Netherlands as the Golden Age, signifying a period when trade and prosperity, especially in the Northern Netherlands, reached an unparalleled height. Holland had become a global power with flourishing trade and a robust naval force. The Dutch East India Company (V.O.C.) became the largest enterprise in the world, largely due to its trade with Asia. As a result, the bourgeoisie had ample funds and means to independently purchase art, which led to a thriving trade among painters, art dealers, and prosperous citizens. The primary objective of painters in the 17th century was to depict reality as accurately as possible.

De terugkomst in Amsterdam van de tweede expeditie naar Oost-Indië, uit 1599, van de kunstschilder Hendrik Cornelisz. Vroom. De terugkomst in Amsterdam van de tweede expeditie naar Oost-Indië, de zogenoemde Tweede Schipvaart, onder leiding van Jacobus van Neck, op 19 juli 1599. De vier grote schepen Mauritius, Hollant, Overijssel en Vrieslant liggen op het IJ omringd door tal van kleine scheepjes en volgeladen roeiboten. Rechts in de verte het profiel van de stad Amsterdam. Het verdiende geld besteedde men aan de bouw van stadspaleizen. In de stadspaleizen wilde men de muren verd=sieren met kunst, die de kunstenaars konden leveren/ Niet de kerk was nu de belangrijkste opdrachtgever voor de kunstschilders, maar deze rol werd nu overgenomen door de burgerij. De kunst kwam nu in de 17de eeuw tot grote bloei.Image: The return to Amsterdam of the second expedition to East India, from 1599, by the painter Hendrik Cornelisz Vroom. It was only the second exploration to East India, known as the Second Shipping, led by Jacobus van Neck. The four large ships Mauritius, Hollant, Overijssel, and Vrieslant are anchored, loaded with spices from Java, on the IJ, surrounded by numerous smaller vessels and fully loaded rowboats. To the far right, you can see the silhouette of Amsterdam. The money earned was spent in the major cities, in part, on the construction of city palaces. In these city palaces, the residents wanted to adorn the walls with art that painters could supply. The role of the church as a patron for artists diminished, and was taken over by the bourgeoisie. As a result, art flourished tremendously in the 17th century.
Location: This painting, of significant historical value, is displayed in the Rijksmuseum, located at Museumplein in Amsterdam.

It was also the century in which the Dutch advocated freedom of thought. As a consequence, people were free to practice their religion, and the bourgeoisie was free in their actions and decisions. In the 17th century, the Low Countries were divided into the Southern Netherlands, under Catholic Spanish rule, and the Northern Netherlands, under the Protestant governance of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces.

Politiek en geloof zijn in 1614 onlosmakelijk met elkaar verbonden. Dit schilderij van Adriaen van de Venne laat de tweesplitsing in het geloof goed zien. Op de linkeroever van dit rivierenlandschap staan protestantse dominees en de leiders van de Republiek, onder wie Maurits en Frederik Hendrik van Oranje; op de rechteroever staan de aartshertogen Albrecht en Isabella, in gezelschap van generaal Ambrosio Spinola, die het zuiden besturen met talloze katholieke geestelijken. Op de achtergrond wordt de paus rondgedragen door kardinalen. Het zieltjes vissen staat hier gelijk aan zieltjes winnen. Op de voorgrond ziet u twee bootjes met links de in het zwart geklede calvinisten. Zij vissen katholieken uit het water. Op het bootje staan de woorden `fides', `spes' en `charitas' ofwel geloof, hoop en liefdadigheid. Volgens de protestanten was bij de katholieken het geloof tot bijgeloof verworden, de hoop en het vertrouwen werd onderdrukt, en de liefdadigheid kwam alleen ten goede van de gevers zelf. Het bootje rechts, met de katholieken, kapseist bijna. De schatten van de kerk drijven in het water. Men probeert vruchteloos om de dikke katholieken in het bootje te trekken. De regenboog die beide oevers verbindt, brengt beide oevers niet samen. Op de rechteroever stormt het en zijn de bomen op sterven na dood; op de linkeroever breekt de zon door en staan de bomen vol blad. De boodschap van Adriaen van de Venne is klip en klaar: kies de kant van de protestanten.
Locatie: Het schilderij `Zielenvisserij', uit 1614, van de kunstschilder Adriaen van de Venne hangt in het Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Image: In the painting “Fishing for Souls”, from 1614, politics and faith are inextricably linked. This painting by Adriaen van de Venne clearly illustrates the religious divide. On the left bank of this river landscape stand Protestant ministers and the leaders of the Republic, including Maurits and Frederik Hendrik of Orange; on the right bank stand Archdukes Albrecht and Isabella, accompanied by General Ambrosio Spinola, ruling the south with numerous Catholic clergymen. In the background, the Pope is carried around by cardinals. “Fishing for souls” here equates to “winning souls.” In the foreground, you see two boats with the Calvinists dressed in black on the left. They fish Catholics out of the water. The boat bears the words “fides”, “spes”, and “charitas” meaning faith, hope, and charity. According to the Protestants, Catholic faith had degenerated into superstition, hope and trust were suppressed, and charity only benefited the givers themselves. The boat on the right, with the Catholics, is nearly capsizing. The church’s treasures float in the water. There’s a fruitless attempt to pull the overweight Catholics into the boat. The rainbow, connecting both banks, does not bring them together. On the right bank, there’s a storm, and the trees are nearly dead; on the left, the sun breaks through, and the trees are full of leaves. Adriaen van de Venne’s message is clear: choose the side of the Protestants.
Location: The painting “Fishing for Souls,” from 1614, by the painter Adriaen van de Venne is on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, located at Museumplein.

The Baroque was initiated by the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church, so it’s no wonder that in the Protestant North, people looked with disapproval at the exuberant portrayal that Peter Paul Rubens and other Dutch southerners were accustomed to. The work of the painters from the Southern Netherlands became known as Flemish Baroque. The 17th century in the Northern Netherlands was the time of Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen (1626-1679), known for his ironic and humorous paintings, Ferdinand Bol (1616-1680), landscape painter Albert Cuyp (1620-1691), Gerrit Dou (1613-1675), known for his intricately painted portraits, Rembrandt’s talented student Carel Fabritius (1622-1654), Govert Flinck (1615-1660), who also learned from Rembrandt, and Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), who painted the famous Dutch skies.

Een stormachtig zeegezicht, van Jan van Goyen uit 1655Image: A stormy seascape, from 1655, by Jan van Goyen, who became renowned for the beautiful and impressive Dutch skies he painted. It is a typical Dutch landscape composition with two-thirds sky and one-third land and water forming the base of the painting. His paintings provide a good insight into life in the 17th century.
Location: This painting by Jan van Goyen is located in the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in the Finnish capital, Helsinki. This art museum is situated on Bulevardi, between the Hietalahden Tori square and the Sinebrychoff Park.

However, others also gained fame as artists in the 17th century, such as the interior painter Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684), landscape painter Salomon van Ruysdael (circa 1600-1670), Rembrandt’s teacher Pieter Pieterszoon Lastman (1583-1633), and Rembrandt’s friend Jan Lievens (1607-1674). Pieter Claesz. Heda (1597-1661) and Willem Claesz. Heda (1594-1680) were particularly well-known for their exquisite meal still lifes.

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