Published: December 24, 2014

Dutch painting in the 17th century

A distinctive feature of the Dutch art was a significant prevalence in all types of painting. The elite people at the highest levels of power - not rich burghers, craftsmen and peasants adorned their houses with paintings. They sold on auctions and fairs; artists sometimes even used them as means for payment of accounts. The artistry was not rare, painters were much, and they cruelly competed among themselves. A very few of them could support himself with painting, many took up a variety of work: Jan Steen was an innkeeper, Meindert Hobbema - an excise officer, Jacob van Ruisdael - a doctor.

images: Public domain

Dutch painting in the 17th century


Steen, Jan
Girl eats oysters
Around 1658-1660, Mauritshuis, The Hague


The explosion of Dutch painting in the 17th century explained due to not only demand for paintings those who would like to decorate their home, but also a look at them as well as commodity, tool profit or source of speculation. Getting rid of direct customer, the Catholic Church or an influential patron-seignior, the artist has fully depending on needs of the market. Tastes of bourgeois society predetermined the development path of Dutch art, and artists opposed it, asserted self-dependence in matters of art, isolated and died alone in the grip of poverty. Even more, they were usually the most talented masters. It is enough to mention the names of Hals and Rembrandt.

The main object of the image for Dutch artists was reality, never before was so full display in the works of painters other national schools. Appeal to a wide variety aspects of life led to the strengthening of realistic tendencies in painting, where genre art, portrait, landscape and still-life occupied leading place. The more truly and deep the artists reflect opening in front of them real world, the more significant their works were.

Each genre had its own branches. For example, among the landscape painters were marine painters (depicting the sea), painters, who preferred views of plain or wild forest, and masters which specialized in winter landscapes and landscapes with moonlight. Among the genre painters were artists who portrayed burghers and peasants, scenes of domestic life and carousals, bazaars and hunting. There were also artists who specialized in church interiors and various types of still-lifes as 'shop', 'dessert', 'breakfast' and others. The number of available themes affected with such feature of Dutch painting as an illiberality. However, the virtuosity of the artist contributed something that every artist focuses on a specific genre. Only the largest Dutch artists painted in a variety of genres.

The development of realistic Dutch painting occurred in the fight against mannerism and Italianate movement. Representatives of these movements, each in their own way, but only formal they borrowed Italian artists techniques, profoundly unlike Dutch painting traditions. Realistic movements manifested more clearly in the genre art and portraits during the development of Dutch painting, which covers the 1609-1640 years.

Jacob van Ruisdael (1628-1682) was an outstanding master in the genre of landscape (paints the classic Dutch landscapes - desert dunes, the famous windmills, boats with channels, skaters, and not the nature in General), an artist of infinite imagination ("Landscape with Waterfall", " Landscape with swamp and oak forest", "Jewish cemetery"). Ruisdael was drawing diligently from nature, and got monumentality at the same time.

Dutch painting in the 17th century


Portrait of Stephen Gerads, 1652, the Royal Museum, Antwerp

One of the most talented portraitists of this epoch can be named France Hals (c. 1585-1666). He created set of group portraits as images of rifle guilds (the association of officers for defense and protection cities). Burghers wished to perpetuate themselves in a picture, and the artist had to remember about respect for every model. Imaging ideals of young republic, feelings of freedom, equality, comradeship attracts in these pictures. Feel sure of oneself and tomorrow, full of energy people look from the canvases on viewers ("The Officers of the St George Militia Company", "The Officers of the St Adrian Militia Company"). They usually depicted in a friendly feast. Art document of epoch consists of these individuals due to the manner of the artist - a wide, confident, with rich, intense colors (yellow, red, blue, etc.). Individual portraits with outlines of a genre painting have much thoughtless zeal, a rush, irrepressible energy. It disappears in recent portraits. For example, the grief and weariness of Hals' hero is visible even though he's stateliness and swank in hermitage men's portrait. These features are even more strengthened in other portrait (image of the man in a wide-brimmed hat). During this later period Hals reached the acme of skill, colors became monochromic (usually dark, black clothing, with the white collar and cuffs, and a dark-olive background) in his works. Painting palette is laconic, but based on very subtle gradations.

Rembrandt's oeuvre (1606-1669) became final achievement Dutch art of XVII century and top of its realism.

Rembrandt's paintings painted in love happy period to a young wife (romantic portraits of Saskia, self-portraits in luxurious and unimaginable garb, with zest for life and shining faces), refers to baroque style. The complexity angles, light extravaganza, dynamism, wealth of color nuances, modeling light and later became the main among his expressive means.

The main means of expression for Rembrandt were no lines and weight, and color and light. The composition largely based on balance colored sounding. The tones of red and brown dominated in the colour, as if flash from within. Color is intense, paints like radiates light. Difficult interaction of color and light created certain emotional environment, which added psychological characteristic character. Picture "The prodigal son" can be considered as the best Rembrandt's canvas and epilogue of his creative work. It displays an incredible array of subtle feelings - joy over the return of the lost, a commotion, absolute parental love, but at the same time a desiderium, bitterness, shame, repentance... An incredible color union of red and orange tones, images and background - all this are a single picturesque stream.
Alkmaar a forest floor still life with flowering plants and butterflies
Nicolaes de Vree (Amsterdam 1645 - 1702)
Alkmaar a forest floor still life with flowering plants and butterflies
Dutch painting in the 17th century
Hanneman, Adrian (1604-1671)
Posthumous portrait of Mary Stuart (1631-1660) with the servant
Mauritshuis, The Hague
Dutch painting in the 17th century
Herman Verelst
Portret of young man
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Dutch painting in the 17th century

The road in the woods, Meindert Hobbema, 1670

By Alena,  

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