The Golden Age of the Dutch was the era of Jan de Witt. The Dutch bested the great powers of the world in the arts and science before the reactionary House of Orange put him to death, which marked the end of the Golden Age.
“There may be no other country in which in the brief span of a hundred years so many paintings were executed as during the 17th century in the United Provinces, in Holland, as this land is commonly called abroad, or the Netherlands, to use the name it gave itself. It is estimated that between 1600 and 1700 no less than 5 million paintings were executed in small and large centers of painting, a figure that is even more surprising if you think of the distrust of holy images professed by Calvinism from the very beginning of its spread. The wave of iconoclasm it set in motion was so powerful that it cut off the most classic destination of the most significant artistic production…. Read More:http://www.essentialvermeer.com/dutch-painters/dutch_art/golden_age.html a
There is very little indication that Jan de Witt was aware he shared his time with artists we think of as the glory of seventeenth-century Holland. A letter to a painter survives, in which the historian Bernard Vlekke calls “painfully haughty and condescending”.But, if De Witt didn’t manifest any great awareness of that aspect of his world, he maintained the Holland in which such things were possible, in which the art of painting flourished as never before, or since, in so small a space, among so few people. His invigorating effect was to be seen in the multitude of works produced in those years.
The Dutch painters had no great patrons- no cathedral triptychs to paint, few huge walls to decorate. But they had thousands of front rooms and parlors that suddenly required paintings. Nothing grand: “Holland’s glorious simplicity” was Contantijn Huygen’s phrase. In fact, it was this simplicity- perceived with the intense curiosity of Vermeer- that becomes the greatest mystery.
“…What made such a prolific artistic production possible and, above all, what led the United Provinces to write a fundamental chapter in the history of European art? Among the many factors that could be cited, we should mention first of all the vitality of a pictorial tradition that went back to the beginning of the 15th century, the golden age of the duchy of Burgundy, and – thanks to the wealth of the cities of the Netherlands and the level of professional expertise demanded by the Burgundian court– that was already included by right among the great artistic schools of Europe….Read More: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/dutch-painters/dutch_art/golden_age.html a
Of course, the word “simplicity” does no justice to Rembrandt. He often defied prevailing taste, being impossibly theatrical and exotic: he was altogether too much for the officers of the militia company, who asked him for a group portrait, and too much for the burghers of Amsterdam, who certainly hadn’t expected anything like that one-eyed barbaric chieftain, rebel against the Romans. Yet something in his portraits, the self-portraits, the merest scribble, or in the painstaking beauty of such etchings as “The Hundred Guilder Print”, reveals a sense of human individuality, of what it is to be alive, capable of love and fear and passion. It is this contact with day-to-day life that evokes an abiding interest in Jan de Witt’s Holland.
“In the second place, the Netherlands learned to relate to art is a different way from the other European countries. After the connection of art with courts, monasteries, and religious associations had waned, new relations emerged. Increasingly wealthy and numerous – in Amsterdam alone, the population had grown from 60,000 inhabitants in 1600 to 135,000 in 1640 – and in step with the European nobility, the urban upper class had discovered that paintings were a symbol of power, objects to be collected avidly. On the other hand, Holland was the Mecca of trade and consequently paintings could also become merchandise. … Until then, trade had been based mainly on spices, textiles, and tulip bulbs, but it gradually extended to paintings as well, and that is the reason why many Dutch paintings are not very large. The fact that they were easy to handle and were less bulky made it easier to place them on the market. In the last analysis, that also explains the dissemination on an international scale of 17th‐century Dutch works and – unlike, for example, 14‐ and 15th‐century Italian works – their presence in almost every museum collection in the world. They were so successful commercially that, at least until the foundation of municipal museums, there were very few paintings from this period in their homeland.” Read More: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/dutch-painters/dutch_art/golden_age.html a
Some of the greatest Regent paintings are those Frans Hals painted of the patrician men and women who were trustees of such homes. “The Regents of the St. Elisabeth’s Hospital (1641) and “The Regentress of the Old Men’s Home” (1665) are examples; the latter a very monochromatic picture, full of firmness, goodwill, and earnest good manners. To some historians, this quality which the Dutch call “deftige” , a mixture of coolness, haughtiness, and paternalism, was by no means an unmixed blessing. “Deftige” became the ambition of the entire Dutch middle-class of the next two hundred and fifty years, and from this general ambition Netherland society suffered under a kind of suffocating atmosphere that manifested itself as a deliberate snobbery. As time went on, the “regents mentality” bolstered by wealth from the Indies, by investment rather than action- produced something ingrown, constrained, claustrophobic.