Dutch Golden Age Art Movement

Holland 1590 - 1702

Dutch Golden Age Art Movement, History, Dutch Golden Age Paintings & Artists.

The Dutch Golden Age was a period in the history of the Netherlands, spreading over the seventeenth century, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world.

Dutch Golden Age painting took after a significant number of the propensities that overwhelmed Baroque workmanship in different parts of Europe, for example, Caravaggesque and naturalism, yet was the pioneer in building up the subjects of still life, landscape, and genre painting. Portraiture was also prevalent, yet history painting, generally the most-elevated genre, struggled to find buyers. Church art was for all intents and purposes non-existent. While art collecting and painting for the open market was also common elsewhere, art historians point to the growing number of wealthy Dutch middle-class and successful mercantile patrons as the main impetuses in the prominence of certain pictorial subjects.

This pattern, alongside the absence of Counter-Reformation church support that overwhelmed expressions of the human experience in Catholic Europe, brought about the considerable number of "scenes of regular daily existence" or genre paintings, and other secular subjects. Landscapes and seascapes, for instance, mirror the land recovered from the ocean and the wellsprings of exchange and maritime power that stamp the Republic's Golden Age. One subject that is quite characteristic of Dutch Baroque painting is the large group portrait, particularly of community and volunteer army organizations, such as Rembrandt van Rijn's The Night Watch.

The first few decades of the sixteenth century witnessed a major turning point in Flemish and Dutch art. The decline of the last generation of great masters in the fifteenth-century tradition made way for a new current, based on the reworking of the novel trends in Italian art, experienced first hand in journeys to the south and combined with the decorative exuberance and descriptive detail typical of Flemish art. The star of Antwerp shone ever more brightly, as the port at the mouth of the Scheldt became the main commercial and artistic center along the North Sea coast.

Painters like Bosch, Metsys, Mabuse, and Scorel traveled to Venice and Rome to study Italian art, acquiring the monumental sense of Italian perspectives and also meeting other leading European artists. The northern Europeans artists did not go to Italy simply to learn, however, but also to make their own decisive contributions to the evolution of the painting of the High Renaissance and the birth of the “modern manner”. The Antwerp “Italianate painters” formed a clearly recognizable movement, in close contact with the art centers of the northern provinces, where Durer's influence was strongest.

At the end of the sixteenth century, after a bitter war against Philip II of Spain, the seven United Provinces of the Low Countries gained independence. One of these was Holland, where the main cities and activities were concentrated. The United Provinces, a republic ruled by stadtholders (governors) of the House of Orange, though they had a great deal of local autonomy, suddenly found themselves a major European power. In the space of a few decades, this small population, living in a flat landscape crisscrossed with canals and dotted with windmills, and constantly battling against the sea, emerged from anonymity to become the envy of the entire continent. Thanks to the East India Company, the ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam flourished as financial and trading centers.

By the beginning of the seventeenth century, having established a secure basis of widespread wealth, the Dutch felt united and proud. The culture of seventeenth-century Holland is amply reflected in its paintings. Thousands of small episodes depict distant, monotonous landscapes, with children skating happily on the frozen canals, the quiet life of the hard-working women, who sweep and scrub the house as they wait for their husbands, well off, slightly hefty cavaliers easily tempted by the pleasures of the tavern and drinking sessions with their old comrades in arms. There are also images of craftsmen and professionals gathered in sedate meetings of confraternities and guilds, good-natured, reliable village doctors, cunning peasants and pipe smokers, adorable children in their starched caps, and young servant girls with shining eyes. The markets are shown overflowing with merchandise and spices from the Orient are shown on the quayside of the ports. But above all, there are images of neat, bright rooms in perfectly kept homes, with a child's forgotten toy on the polished floor, tables just abandoned by the diners, with a twist of lemon peel, a Chinese porcelain vase, crumbs of a clumsily sliced cake, and some pieces of a broken walnut. The more closely one examines Dutch paintings, the more details one sees, light sparkling on pewter, shining glass windows, the immaculate lane in front of a house. In very few cases in the history of art has an entire population been so fully revealed in their painting.

The Birth of Still Life. A New Genre Destined to Change the Art Market.

At the end of the Renaissance, the art market was no longer limited to the aristocracy and high ranking prelates but expanded to include the wealthy bourgeoisie and the rising merchant class. This change encouraged the introduction of new subjects. The depiction of inanimate objects became a separate theme that excluded the presence of human figures. This genre acquired a dignity of its own thanks to the work of talented specialists and was soon much sought after by the new clients. Significantly, Caravaggio claimed that a good flower piece is as difficult to paint as a composition of figures, providing a sublime and perhaps insuperable example of the genre in the Basket of Fruit now in Milan. A special genre of still life was the so-called pronkstilleven (ostentatious still life). This style of luxurious still-life painting was created in the 1640s in Antwerp by Flemish craftsmen, for example, Frans Snyders, Osias Beert, Adriaen van Utrecht and a whole generation of Dutch Golden Age painters. They painted still lifes that stressed wealth by depicting a diversity of objects, fruits, flowers and dead game, often together with living people and animals. The style was soon adopted by artists from the Dutch Republic. During this period, the still life genre developed throughout Europe, particularly in the northern countries.

The fame of Jan Bruegel, son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, is based above all on his ability to “arrange” and depict lavish bouquets, sometimes accompanied by unusual small objects such as coins, insects or jewels. In his letters from Antwerp and Brussels the to Milanese Cardinal Frederico Borromeo, his great admirer, and patron, Bruegel stressed the fact that composing these bouquets, consisting of dozens of different flowers, was an exhausting task. In fact, all of his compositions were painted from real life, and he, therefore, had to wait for the various varieties to bloom, sometimes months apart. Thanks to his good relations with the ruling Archduchess of the Netherlands, he had access to the royal conservatories, where unusual plants and flowers were cultivated, including some of the first European tulips.

Baroque Europe During the Seventeenth-Century.

Europe underwent significant political, social and cultural changes, causing a crisis of the traditional powers and the presence of new countries in a situation that stretched out over the seas to distant continents. Yet, the seventeenth century was also full of surprising contrasts. During this time, the arts developed a creative style while the sciences started to expand the guidelines of modern methods of inquiry. Economics saw the birth of bourgeois capitalism, and the sovereigns of Europe built magnificent royal residences. Italian culture and tastes spread all through Europe when Italy was consigned to the sidelines of international trade. In spite of these conditions, the Baroque age was a fascinating period of artistic development and exchange and increased circulation of ideas. New national schools also became consolidated during this time and homogeneous stylistic features spread throughout the continent, one being the domestic intimisme of the Dutch School.

The Astronomer. Johannes Vermeer's close friendship with scientists, like the inventor of the microscope Adrian van Leeuwenhoek, explains his sensitive portraits of thinkers and scholars, in which their intelligence application, intuition, and concentration clearly emerge, almost spreading the light of genius and knowledge.

The Antwerp school was one of the most triumphant currents of European Baroque art, and Jacob Jordaens was perhaps its most spectacular exponent. In Jordaens' Family in a Garden, the artist does not depict himself at the easel or in a painter's smock, but in extremely elegant attire, holding a lute instead of a palette. His family is enjoying the relaxing atmosphere and the shade of the garden in full bloom at the end of summer, with a gushing fountain and a young maid carrying a basket of ripe grapes. The delightful little blond girl is portrayed smiling and timid, with a gentle blush suffusing her cheeks and an expression that is both coy and curious; a figure worthy of a Renoir.

Although Peter Paul Rubens was brought up in Antwerp in the Spanish Netherlands and he studied painting under Tobias Verhaecht, Adam van Noort, and Otto Vaenius and was admitted into the Antwerp painters' guild in 1598, and was appointed court painter to Archduke Albrecht of the Netherlands, and had over a hundred assistants in his Antwerp workshop, he is not considered a Dutch Golden Age painter.

Dutch Golden Age art movement compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.

Famous Dutch Golden Age Art Movement Oil Painting Reproductions.

Dutch Golden Age Art Movement Painters Biography & Painting Reproductions.

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