Dutch Golden Age
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Low Countries witnessed a cultural development that stood out from neighbouring countries. With some exceptions (notably Dutch playwright Joost van den Vondel) the Baroque movement did not gain much influence. Its exuberance did not fit the austerity of the largely Calvinistic population.
The major force behind new developments was formed by the citizenry, notably in the western provinces: first and foremost in Holland, to a lesser extent Zeeland and Utrecht. Where rich aristocrats often became patrons of art in other countries, because of their comparative absence in the Netherlands this role was played by wealthy merchants and other patricians.
Centres of cultural activity were town militia (Dutch: schutterij) and chambers of rhetoric (Dutch rederijkerskamer). The former were created for town defence and policing, but also served as a meeting-place for the well-to-do, who were proud to play a prominent part and paid a fair sum to see this preserved for posterity by means of a group portrait. The latter were associations on a city level, that fostered literary activities, like poetry, drama and discussions, often through contests. Cities took pride in their existence and promoted them.
Dutch Golden Age painting followed many of the tendencies that dominated Baroque art in other parts of Europe, such as Caravaggesque and naturalism, but was the leader in developing the subjects of still life, landscape, and genre painting. Portraiture were also popular, but History painting — traditionally the most-elevated genre struggled to find buyers. Church art was virtually non-existent, and little sculpture of any kind produced. 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 driving forces in the popularity of certain pictorial subjects.
This trend, along with the lack of Counter-Reformation church patronage that dominated the arts in Catholic Europe, resulted in the great number of "scenes of everyday life" or genre paintings, and other non-religious pictures. Landscapes and seascapes, for example, reflect the land reclaimed from the sea and the sources of trade and naval power that mark the Republic's Golden Age. One subject that is quite characteristic of Dutch Baroque painting is the large group portrait, especially of civic and militia guilds, such as Rembrandt van Rijn's Nightwatch.
Today, the best-known painters of the Dutch Golden Age are the period's most dominant figure Rembrandt, the Delft master of genre Johannes Vermeer, the innovative landscape painter Jacob van Ruisdael, and Frans Hals, who infused new life into portraiture. Some notable artistic styles and trends include Haarlem Mannerism, Utrecht Caravaggism, the School of Delft, the Leiden fijnschilders, and Dutch classicism.
The most famous Dutch men of letters of the 17th century were
- Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679), poet and playwright, who wrote more than 30 plays, many of those based on biblical stories. After The Gijsbrecht (see above) his best known drama is Lucifer (1654). He translated many French, Italian, Latin and Greek works. A recurring theme is man's inner conflicts, on the one hand rebellious, on the other hand pledging obedience to God.
- Gerbrand Adriaensz. Bredero (1585-1618), poet (sonnets) and dramatist (comedies), his most famous comedy, De Spaanse Brabander (English: The Spanish Brabanter), describes the seamy side of life in Amsterdam
- Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft (1581-1647), historian, poet and dramatist, who wrote Nederlandsche Historiën (English: Dutch History), which was never completed, but highly valued. His poetry was of high standard as well. He introduced French and Italian lyricism into Dutch poetry.
- Jacob Cats (1577-1660), poet, famous for his moralistic writings. Houwelijck and Trouringh (English:Marriage and Wedding ring) are two major volumes to educate the Dutch about these serious affairs. Indeed his all too serious tone, lacking humour and esprit, made him a lesser writer than the three named above, and sometimes the object of mockery. His Kinderen zijn hinderen (English: Children are a nuisance) is still a Dutch saying, often followed by the remark that Cats probably had forgotten that he had been a child himself.
Less famous literary men from this period were
- Roemer Visscher (1547-1620), writer of epigrams and emblemata
- Karel van Mander (1548-1606), who wrote the Schilderboeck, a book about painting, and also several biografies about painters
- Justus de Harduyn (1582-1636), poet from the southern Low Countries
- Samuel Coster (1579-(1665), good friend of Bredero, founder of the First Dutch Academy in 1617.
- Jacob Revius (1586-1658), poet but worked also on the new bible translation known as the Statenbijbel that appeared in 1637 and is still in use today in some Protestant circles
- Thomas Asseleyn (1620-1701), writer of comedies
- Willem Godschalk van Focquenbroch (1640-1670), poet and playwright
- Jan Luyken (1649-1712)