Dutch Masters and Painting

IT is extremely difficult to separate Dutch painting in its beginnings from Flemish. Indeed, no decided line of demarcation appears until the last of the sixteenth or first of the seventeenth century, after Holland had achieved her independence and thus had become a free Protestant country.

Characteristics. — Comparatively few religious pictures were painted. In them the change of religion from Catholicism to Protestantism is apparent. The Virgin Mary is represented not as Queen of Heaven, with nimbus or diadem, but is most often clad in the ordinary garb of a woman of the country. The chief interest centres in Christ and his works of redemption. Saints are less freely introduced. Italian methods, so closely followed by contemporary Flemish painters, are set aside. The art seems to have grown directly out of the individual character of the people, and represents those scenes that most closely engage their everyday life. Domestic pictures, genre and portrait, predominate.

Everything is very realistic and detail is much elaborated. Most pictures are small.

Michael Janse Mierevelt (1567-1641), born in Delft, is one of the earliest notable Dutch portrait painters.

He delighted in painting the aristocracy, and his work is marked by a very truthful feeling for his subjects and all their accessories.

His drawing is good ; his coloring warm and full. He was a prolific painter.

Good examples of his work are in Hotel de Ville, Delft; in Amsterdam Museum ; Old Pinacothek, Munich ; Gallery, Dresden ; and Louvre, Paris.

His son and pupil, Pieter Mierevelt, also painted well.

Franz Hals the Younger (1584-1666) produced works that are most distinctively Dutch in spirit, and which seem to have been in a greater or less degree the models for most of the succeeding painters of Holland.

His subjects are groups of archers, or of civic bodies, family portraits, and single figures.

His portraits are remarkable for their sense of reality. In many of them there is a decided feeling for the genre. Sometimes there is a humorous element. His expressions are most animated.

His color in early pictures is warm ; in later ones a cool, silvery tone appears.

His technique is broad, free, and sure. Most of his pictures are of good size.

Representative works:

“Archers’ Feast,” “Civic Guard Banquet.” Museum, Haarlem.

” Archers’ Guild,” ” Toper with Glass of Wine.” Museum, Amsterdam.

Portraits. Berlin Museum; Louvre; National Gallery, London. Examples may be seen in Metropolitan Museum, New York ; Art Institute, Chicago; and private galleries of this country.

Rembrandt van Ryn (1607-1669), born in Leyden, is the greatest name of this school. His masters were unimportant artists ; his love for the study of nature was the strongest influence in his art life. This developed very early, and at the age of twenty-three he went to Amsterdam, and soon painted some of his best pictures. A brief season of great prosperity followed, for he married the daughter of a wealthy burgher and received many commissions. He established a large school and exerted much influence on Dutch art. He gathered a large and valuable collection of pictures and other art treasures, which, after the death of his wife, when he had become bankrupt, were all sold at auction. His misfortunes did not weaken, but rather strengthened his painting. He never travelled, like other artists, but spent all his years in Amsterdam.

He was throughout life a profound student of nature, and since common humanity, age, and even deformity and death appealed to him more strongly than wealth, luxury, or beauty, he spent much time in wandering through the poorest streets of the city seeking models.

He painted religious pictures, the higher genre, portraits, landscapes, and, occasionally, mythological pictures. His etchings are very famous and valuable.

Characteristics. — In his religious pictures we find not the slightest trace of Italian methods of treatment. He cared nothing for traditionary proprieties of costume and accessories, but clothed his people (who are real Dutch men and women, burghers or peasants, Jews or Turks as he chose) in their everyday costumes.

His ” Christ ” lived not alone in Palestine, but was an universal Christ, whose only nimbus was his love and pity; who was present healing the sick or teaching the multitudes of Amsterdam, just as really as those of Capernaum and Jerusalem.

In his pictures of the higher genre, he has given us noble types of the Dutch people. The figures and faces, all possess individuality and character.

His composition and drawing are sometimes weak. His treatment of light and shade, especially in his later pictures (his early ones often possess a clear, daylight tone), distinguishes him from all other artists, and is the strongest and most individual element of his work. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if the meaning of his work, its dramatic interest, its pathos, its spiritual intent, are revealed through its chiaroscuro instead of by its composition or the expression of its figures. In some of his very latest works we can but believe that the picture revealed itself first to him in dazzling light and shadows, which afterward he peopled as he chose.

This light and shadow follows no ordinary rules of chiaroscuro ; it is arbitrary, sudden, and partial ; it is an illumination in a dark space. It is fantastic rather than natural light.

His portraits are exceptionally strong, his faces are animated and characteristic, and his peculiar use of chiaroscuro is especially adapted to this class of painting.

His landscapes do not appear to be the representations of any particular places; they are, however, full of the most intense feeling for nature ; they are poetic; most often a melancholy feeling of solitude breathes from them.

His color, like his light and shade, is arbitrary ; his earlier pictures are comparatively clear and cool ; his later color is full of rich, warm, golden browns, while his last are very warm.

His technique is utterly unlike the great mass of Dutch painting. He soon lost his first careful method of representing detail, and grew very broad in handling, until in some of his latest pictures almost all detail is lost in color and chiaroscuro. He had a habit of using very stiff brushes, and sometimes even the handle of his brush, whose marks can be plainly discerned.

Most important works :

“The Night Watch” (or Night Guard). Gallery, Amsterdam. (This by some is numbered among twelve pictures sometimes called ” World Pictures.”)

” Anatomy Lecture.” Museum, The Hague.

” Descent from the Cross,” ” Nativity,” ” Entombment,” ” Sacrifice of “Isaac,” “Portrait of a Turk.” Old Pinacothek, Munich.

“Portrait of Wife Saskia,” “Portrait of Old Man” and others, “Samson putting forth his Riddle at Wedding Feast.” Gallery, Dresden.

Portraits, ” Samson threatening his Father-in-law.” Museum, Berlin.

Landscape. Gallery, Cassel.

“Disciples at Emmaus,” “Philosophers,” portraits. Louvre, Paris.

” Woman taken in Adultery,” ” Adoration of Shepherds,” ” Woman Bathing,” portraits and landscapes. National Gallery, London.

Many of Rembrandt’s works are in private galleries, especially in England.

Ferdinand Bol (1611—1680) was a pupil of Rembrandt, and at first followed his master quite closely ; later he attempted to imitate Rubens.

He is most noted for his portraits, many of which are full of a fine animation. His color is marked by a disagreeable preponderance of yellow.

Representative works :

“Regents.” Museum, Amsterdam.

Portraits. Old Pinacothek, Munich ; Berlin Museum ; Louvre, Paris ; and National Gallery, London.

Govaert Flinck (1615-1660), also a pupil of Rembrandt, followed him so closely that some of his works have been mistaken for those of his master. He painted Bible scenes, portraits, and genre.

Representative works :

“Archers,” “Regents,” ” Isaac blessing Jacob,” Museum, Amsterdam.

Portraits. Museum, Rotterdam..

” Expulsion of Hagar,” portrait. Museum, Berlin.

” Dutch Guard-room.” Old Pinacothek, Munich.

” Angels announcing Birth of Christ,” portrait. Louvre, Paris.

Other important portrait painters are Bartholomew van der Helst (1613-1670), Gerbrandt van der Eckhout (1621-1674), Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627—1678), and Carl Faber (called Fabritius) (1624-1654).


Gerard Terburg (often written Terboch) (1617—1681) was devoted to the representations of the higher class of society.

His works are small but are marked by a most careful study of atmosphere and relation, so that they often possess a delightful sense of spaciousness.

His composition is quiet and simple, his color subdued and most harmonious, and his technique perfect, delicate but firm. He is especially known for what are called conversation pieces, in which he frequently introduced a lady in a white satin dress, which forms the chief light of the picture. He was very successful in the rendering of all costly costumes, silk and satin and precious stones.

In painting an interior he managed with great delicacy the light and shade which adds a special charm to such pictures.

A few portraits painted by him are in existence and are most highly prized.

Representative works :

Paternal Counsel.” Museum, Amsterdam.

“Officer and Young Girl,” portrait of himself. Museum, The Hague.

” Trumpeter delivering Letter to Lady.” Old Pinacothek, Munich.

“Officer writing Letter,” ” Lady washing Hands.” Gallery, Dresden.

“The Lute Player.” Gallery, Cassel.

“The Consultation,” portraits. Berlin Museum.

“Music Lesson,” ” Concert.” Louvre, Paris.

“Guitar Lesson.” National Gallery, London.

Gabriel Metsu (1630—1667) and Caspar Netscher (1639–1684) painted genre pictures of the higher social life of the day, but did not confine themselves to such wholly as did Terburg, but often chose market scenes, maids in the kitchen, etc.

Their pictures are much prized, and are to be found in Amster-dam ; The Hague ; Munich ; Dresden; Berlin ; the Louvre, Paris ; and National Gallery, London.

Gerard Dou (1613—1675) is one of the most widely known masters of genre. He was a pupil of Rembrandt and at first devoted himself to portrait painting. He also painted some scriptural scenes, but the great mass of his work rep-resents the middle and lower classes of Dutch life. He rarely chose the higher class for a subject.

His pictures are small and seldom contain more than two or three figures. His drawing is excellent. He had a feeling for the picturesque and for strong shades and shadows. Many of his scenes are lighted only by the lantern or the candle. His detail is the most exact and minute possible, and is everywhere equally elaborated. He spent as much time and care on the painting of a broomstick as of a face.

Many examples of his work are in the Museum, Amsterdam ; in Old Pinacothek, Munich; Dresden Gallery; St. Petersburg; Louvre, Paris; and National Gallery, London ; the most noted of which are, perhaps, “The Woman Sick with Dropsy,” Louvre; ” Evening School,” a n d portrait of Pieter van der Werff, Museum, Amsterdam; and “Poulterer’s Shop,” National Gallery, London.

Franz van Mieris (1635-1681), pupil of Gerard Dou, closely followed his master, though he more often painted scenes in the higher class of society. There is a spirit of humor in some of his works that reminds one of Jan Steen. His pictures are small and show minuteness of execution. He also painted portraits, but was not successful in the expression of faces.

The Old Pinacothek, Munich, possesses many of his best works. Good examples, however, are to be found in Uffizi Gallery, Florence ; Dresden Gallery ; Belvidere Gallery, Vienna; and The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

Godefried Schalken (1643-1706), also a pupil of Gerard Dou, chose to represent most of his scenes as if lighted by a candle or torchlight. His effects, though quite picturesque, are not very true to nature.

His general treatment is inferior to Dou’s.

He occasionally painted scriptural subjects, but not successfully.

His works are in most European galleries.

Adrian van Ostade (1610–1685) was a pupil of Franz Hals and a follower of Rembrandt. His subjects are taken from humble life. In their representation he used many figures, which he managed extremely well in composition ; often, they are out-of-doors; and landscape and atmosphere are agreeably rendered. His pictures are full of animation and interest. His coloring is warm and strong his pigment rich and solid. His technique is more free than that of most of his contemporaries.

He excelled in etching.

Representative works :

Party drinking, smoking, etc.,” ” Itinerant Fiddler.” Museum, The Hague.

“Peasants in an Inn,” “Artist and his Ease].” Dresden Gallery.

” The Schoolmaster,” ” Fish Market,” etc. Louvre, Paris.

“The Alchemist.” National Gallery, London.

Many examples are in private galleries in England.

Jan Steen (1625 ?—1679) painted all kinds of low Dutch merrymakings ; also delighted in representing homely family scenes — parents with their children, etc. He possessed the rare talent of painting faces overflowing with expression; this, with his quaint sense of humor, distinguishes his work easily from the mass of genre painting.

His coloring and technique rank him with Hals and Van Ostade.

His out-of-door effects are particularly true and pleasing. Representative works :

” Painter and his Family,” ” Representation of Human Life ” (a party of about twenty people, variously disposed, eating oysters). Museum, The Hague.

” St. Nicholas Day,” ” Young Lady and Parrot.” Museum, Amsterdam.

” Feast of Beans.” Gallery, Cassel.

” Quarrel between Card Players,” ” The Doctor’s Visit.” Old Pinacothek, Munich.

” Mother and Child.” Dresden Gallery.

” Breakfast in Garden.” Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

” Peasant Fête,” ” Family Repast.” Louvre, Paris.

” Music Master.” National Gallery, London.

More than half the pictures painted by Steen are in private galleries in England.

Pieter de Hooghe, or Hooch (about 1630–168 1), was a wonderful painter of out-of-door effects seen from an interior. His subjects are most simple — a courtyard or interior of a room, with open doorway or window through which sunlight is streaming.

His figures (seldom more than two) keep their places extremely well ; but the chief merits of the pictures are the composition of color masses and the light and shade.

His favorite colors are red, and deep, sunny yellows.

He was first appreciated by the English, and most of his works are in private collections of that country.

The following good examples are in galleries :

” Woman and Child at Entrance of Cellar.” Museum, Amsterdam.

” Dutch Living Room.” Old Pinacothek, Munich.

” Dutch Mother.” Museum, Berlin.

” Playing Cards,” ” Room in Dutch House.” Louvre, Paris.

“Courtyard of Dutch House,” “Interior of Dutch House,”

” Court of Dutch House.” National Gallery, London.

Jan van der Meer of Delft (1632–1675) was one of the most delightful of Dutch genre and landscape painters. His works somewhat resemble those of De Hooghe, but possess more brightness of tone ; also, they more often represent ladies and gentlemen than peasants. The scene is usually placed in a small, elegant room lighted by a latticed casement, the atmosphere and coloring of which are admirably managed.

His pictures are rare.

Representative works :

” View of Delft with Figures.” Museum, The Hague.

“Milkmaid,” “Dutch House with People.” Six Collection, Amsterdam.

” Young Woman with Two Men.” Gallery, Brunswick.

” Girl with Lover,” ” Girl reading Letter.” Dresden Gallery.

” Bubble-Blower,” ” Rustic Cottage.” Museum, Berlin.

” Three Men and Three Women.” Academy, Vienna.

Nicholas Maas, or Maes (1632-1693), was IL fellow-painter of Van der Meer. His genre pictures, whose subjects are of humble life, seldom contain more than two figures, usually women, and possess no particularly distinctive characteristics.

He painted portraits, which with their accessories are almost historical pictures. A large number are in private collections in England.

In public galleries are :

Portraits, Rotterdam Museum ; Old Pinacothek, Munich.

“Old Woman Spinning.” Museum, Amsterdam.

Bishop reading Book.” Museum, Berlin.

” Asking Blessing.” Louvre, Paris.

” Cradle, ” Dutch Housewife,” ” Idle Servant Maid.” National Gallery, London.

Other names worthy of mention among the ” Dutch Little Masters ” are Isaac van Ostade (1621—1649), Cornelius Bega (162o—1664), Pieter van Laer (1613—1675 ?), and Henri van der Neer (1643—1703).

Adrian van der Werff (1659—1722) stands quite apart from his contemporaries in Dutch art ; they devoted themselves to the real; he, to the ideal. He painted Biblical and mythological subjects, in which his figures, artifically grouped, very cool in color, and finished with painful smoothness, have the effect of ivory or porcelain statues rather than living beings.

They, however, possess a certain elegance that often wins admiration, and it is said that the artist was unable to fulfil all the commissions that poured in upon him. He also received the honor of being made court painter to Elector John William of the Palatinate.

Occasionally he painted a genre picture into which he put a little realistic feeling.

He is best represented in the Old Pinacothek, Munich, where are thirty of his pictures. Several are in Dresden Gallery and the Louvre, Paris.


The natural and developed qualities of the Dutch School, when applied to the rendering of landscape, give this branch of art a distinctive character, and we find here a most interesting school of landscape painters.

Jan van Goyen (1596—1656) painted mostly canal, river, and ocean scenes, in which there is evidence that he studied directly from nature.

His pictures are of rather a monotonous color — a silvery gray — but possess real atmosphere and daylight.

He is said to have painted landscape backgrounds for Jan Steen’s figures.

Examples are in Amsterdam Museum ; Berlin Museum ; Louvre, Paris; National Gallery, London.

Jan Wynants (1615 ?–1679 ?) was one of the first to give evidence in his pictures of a real love for natural scenery. His chief aim was truthfulness of representation, and this he carried out very conscientiously.

His foregrounds are filled with different kinds of vegetation, most accurately copied. Even the smallest irregularities in the surface of the ground are faithfully rendered.

His middle-distance foliage is well managed.

His pictures are full of aerial perspective. He was least successful in color. His foliage is too brightly green and too bluish in distance. His latest pictures show a heavy brown color. Most of the figures and animals introduced were painted by Adrian van der Velde and Philip Wouverman.

Examples are in Amsterdam ; Dresden Gallery ; Munich (Old Pinacothek); Louvre, Paris; and National Gallery, London.

Artus van der Neer (1603—1677) excelled in sunset, moon light, and winter scenes, in which the masses of shadow are wonderfully well treated.

He delighted in warm color, which he used even in his moonlight and winter pictures. He often represented canals with towns on their banks. Other artists (often Cuyp) painted the figures and animals.

Examples are in Amsterdam Museum ; Old Pinacothek, Munich ; Louvre, Paris ; National Gallery, London.

Jacob van Ruisdael (about 1625–1682) is one of the most celebrated among Dutch landscape painters. His works show, usually, both land and water beneath a heavily clouded sky. They are full of strong, dark shadows and are mourn-fully poetic in feeling.

He sometimes represented a wild, mountainous country with waterfalls and desolate ruins; and also purely coast and sea pieces, where the water is always agitated by storm. His chiaroscuro reminds us of Rembrandt.

His coloring is cold ; his early pictures show a very careful rendering of detail ; his later are more broadly treated.

He seldom introduced any figures of men or animals ; when he did, they were painted by other artists, often Van der Velde and Berchem.

Examples are in Museum, The Hague ; Amsterdam Museum ; Old Pinacothek, Munich ; Berlin Museum ; Dresden Gallery ; Louvre, Paris; and National Gallery, London.

Meindert Hobbema (1638—1709) owes the high esteem in which his pictures are now held to the appreciation of the English, for he had no honor in his own country for more than a century after he lived. His name does not even appear in any catalogue of Dutch works of art during this time. His pictures now command almost fabulous prices.

The range of his subjects is somewhat narrow; they are quiet village streets, bordered by trees, with a footpath leading to each house ; woodlands, and meadows with grain fields, sometimes with water and a mill.

His representations of nature are more truthful than poetic, are full of sunshine, and most of them are characterized by warm, golden color. His foliage shows a very close study of the various kinds of trees.

His technique is quite free.

Van der Velde, Wouverman, and Berchem painted the animals and figures in his pictures.

Examples are in Museums, Rotterdam and Berlin; National Gallery, London; and many private galleries in England.

Philip Wouverman (1619—1668) painted travelling and hunting scenes and cavalry skirmishes, in which landscape, horses, and figures are well drawn and flooded with clear light and rich transparent color. His pictures possess a certain spirit and action that are admirable. His horses are particularly fine. Popular tradition asserts that he never painted a picture without introducing a white horse ; this is by no means true, yet it is a common mannerism.

He was a prolific painter, for there are about eight hundred pictures in existence which are attributed to him.

Examples are in Museums, Amsterdam and The Hague ; Cassel Gallery ; Old Pinacothek, Munich ; Dresden Gallery ; Louvre, Paris ; National Gallery, London ; Dulwich Gallery, England.

Aelbert Cuyp (1620—1691) was one of the ablest Dutch landscape and cattle painters, and was also a good portrait painter. He especially excelled in his atmospheres, which are true to the time of day represented. His yellow sunlight effects are particularly characteristic.

His pictures show less force and individuality of representation than Ruysdael’s and Hobbema’s.

Examples are in Old Pinacothek, Munich ; Dresden Gallery; Louvre, Paris ; National Gallery, London ; Bridgewater and Dulwich Galleries, England ; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Paul Potter (1625—1654) did not possess much grace of invention or composition, but painted landscapes and cattle as found in nature most accurately. His reputation was won chiefly by the painting of ” The Young Bull,” now in the Museum of The Hague. It is a large picture, containing several animals beside its chief subject, and all are of life size. As a work of art it does not deserve its fame, and is decidedly inferior to many of his smaller pictures.

Examples are in Museums, Amsterdam and The Hague ; Louvre, Paris ; and National Gallery, London.

Adrian van der Velde (1635—1672) possessed considerable poetry of feeling and skill in composition. He painted groups of cattle beside pools of water, with masses of foliage in the background against warm skies ; also landscapes with groups of men, horses, and dogs ; and occasionally a pure landscape, which is usually a Scheveningen coast scene. His color is warm and clear and his chiaroscuro delicate.

Examples are in Museums, Amsterdam, The Hague, and Berlin ; Cassel Gallery ; Dresden Gallery ; Old Pinacothek, Munich ; Louvre, Paris; National Gallery, London.

Jan Both (1610–1650) and Nicolas Berchem (1620–1683) both lived for a time in Italy, and their pictures are more Italian than Dutch. They are half-ideal Italian landscapes, peopled with shepherds, shepherdesses, and cattle.

Examples are in Museums, Amsterdam and The Hague ; Old Pinacothek, Munich; Dresden Gallery; Louvre, Paris; National Gallery, London.

Willem van der Velde the Younger (1633–1707) is the most noted painter of purely marine subjects among the Dutch. He painted many shore and harbor scenes and naval battles. His pictures are noted for a fine knowledge of skies, aerial perspective, light, and ocean effects. He went to England and was employed by Kings Charles II and James II to paint naval engagements between the English and the Dutch.

Examples are in Museums, Amsterdam, The Hague, and Berlin; Cassel Gallery ; Old Pinacothek, Munich ; Dresden Gallery; National and Bridgewater Galleries, England.

Ludolf Backhuysen (1631–1708) painted the same kind of subjects as Van der Velde, but is inferior in color, handling, and composition. He was particularly fond of representing the ocean when it is tempestuous, and often pictured grand effects.

Examples are in Museums, Amsterdam, The Hague, and Berlin ; Old Pinacothek, Munich ; Dresden Gallery ; Vienna Gallery ; National Gallery, London.


Among these are several names worthy of mention. Their works are marked by excessive attention to detail. Most important are jan David de Heem (1603-1684), Cornelis de Heem (1623-1684?), and Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750), flower and fruit painters; Willem van Aelst (1620-1679), painter of dead birds and fruit ; Jan van Huysum (1682-1749), flower painter; and Willem Kalf (1630-1693), painter of vases, kitchen utensils, and vegetables.


Among the best known are J. Bosboom (1817-1891), painter of cathedral interiors ; Jozef Israels (1824), noted for genre pictures of peasant and fisher life, full of sentiment ; James Maris (1837), Gabriel and Barent Koekkoek, landscape painters ; William Maris (1839) and Anton Mauve (1838-1888), cattle and landscape painters.

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