There has been a time in history that the Netherlands played a major role in the world. We call this, for the Netherlands at least, the Golden Age. It is around this time that the craft, trade and also the art flourished in the Netherlands, and many famous (and nowadays peperdure) artworks from this period, from the hands of Masters who lived in this time. Think of Rembrandt van Rijn and Jan Steen, for example.
In addition, there are also great painters of Dutch soil from other times, which have become world famous. They also deserve entry. In these top ten, we present ten famous Dutch painters, whether in the Golden Age, before or after, and show one of many famous pieces per painter.
Before we start, two more notes: if you are a seasoned feminist, this list will not give you a smile. Of course there were also enough female painters, both in the Golden Age and beyond, but compared to the listed painters here, they have never been able to enjoy so much name recognition. Perhaps unjustified, but unfortunately, reality. In addition, the list is more or less chronological, so the number one is not better or worse than the number 10, only more recently.
Jheronimus Bosch – late 15th century
Jheronimus Bosch, also known as Jeroen or Hieronymus Bosch, was born as Jheronimus of Aachen, in the Bosch around 1450. On August 9, 1516, he died in Bosch. He was a successful painter in his own time, just like his ancestors, the ones of Aachen were a famous painting family. He entered history as “the devil”, because of the representations on his paintings, he often reproduced devils and other satirical performances. Jheronimus is one of the early Dutch Renaissance painters, also known as the Flemish Primitives (this because they were most active in Flemish cities such as Bruges, Ghent and Brussels).
Above you will see one of his most famous works, the Garden of Lusten. It is a so-called ‘triptych’ (there are three paintings that belong together). It reflects the paradise in the left-hand hatch (see Adam and Eve and the paradise where they live). The middle hatch shows the fall, here people do all kinds of corrupt things, like dealing with blacks (this was a very negative act in the time of the painter). Finally, you see hell (this need little explanation). Jheronimus was a very accurate painter and his paintings, which are an excellent example, contain countless details. So it’s worth wondering whether the painting actually looks at the Prado Museum in Madrid, or a more detailed picture on the web.
Pieter “Boer” Brueghel de Oude – early 16th century
Pieter Brueghel was born in Breda or Breugel between 1525 and 1530, and died in Brussels on September 9, 1569. He was a Renaissance Renaissance painter, who in turn would be a father for many other well-known Bruegels. He wrote his name without the ‘h’ but his sons after him always signed with Brueghel, so that we also now mention Pieter de Oude with Brueghel. He has his nickname ‘farmer’ due to the fact that he often disembarked as a farmer and participated in festivities and other activities in the countryside, as a source of inspiration for his work. He painted a lot of pastoral landscapes, in which townspeople, harvests or other rural themes were central.
Shortly after his death, Pieter was only famous for his paintings, and especially because of his prints.He received the name “The New Jheronimus Bosch” because of these activities and brand awareness, although he himself could not enjoy it anymore.
Pieter, like many of his time, painted scenes with religious tones and made grateful use of imagery, expressions and verbs. Above we see a painting of him called ‘Dutch proverbs’. It is a painting of 1559 and the entire painting should contain about 125 Dutch expressions. Try to find them all (of course, some are no longer in use, nowadays). Increase the picture to the maximum, as you sometimes have to see the hairy details before you understand the symbolism. The painting is also available in the Berlin Gemäldegalerie.
Gerard van Honthorst – the Golden Age
Gerard was born in Utrecht on November 4, 1592 and died in the same city on April 27, 1656. He was one of the most famous followers of the painter Caravaggio, thus rendering him a ‘Utrechtse caravaggist’. He would also have received a lot of inspiration from Antoon van Dyck’s work. He traveled as a young man to Italy to teach in the major art cities Venice, Florence and Rome. He married after returning from this study trip, with his niece Sophia Coopman, and joined the Utrechtse Schilders guild (an important step if he wanted to sell a painting legally). During his time he received great assignments, including the English King Charles the first, and the Danish King Christian IV. In addition, he became a court painter of city councilor Willem II. In order to meet all those requirements he had many students and helpers.
However, in 1640 his popularity decreased and Gerard himself also painted less. He was only 48, but had already seen Europe in his career, including a number of major heads of state. Maybe he was exhausted. Sixteen years later he died.
The work above is called ‘the couple’ and it’s a favorite of the writer of these top ten. It is also typical of Gerard Honthorst’s use of light and dark. The instrument should give a sexual charge to the whole. In contrast to the two previous painters, Gerard used a central theme and image in particular, and did not happen much around there. So we look at these three people, and nothing else happens in the background. It is therefore a relatively ‘quiet’ scene compared to the two paintings mentioned above.This painting was made in 1625 and is still admired in the Central Museum in Utrecht.
Rembrandt van Rijn – the Golden Age
The Rembrandt, we can not avoid him in these top ten. If there is one famous painter from the Netherlands, then is it Rembrandt (or still Van Gogh?). Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born in Leiden on July 15, 1606 (or 07) and died in Amsterdam on October 4, 1669). He is one of the most important painters of the 17th century, and also a very productive; There are about 300 paintings, 300 etching and two thousand drawings painted on his name. The Night Guard (see below, painted in 1642) is perhaps the most famous. He, like Gerard Honthorst, was influenced by the Caravaggists, and his work had baroque hints. Rembrandt is famous for his perfect light play and the use of sharp contrasts.His paintings are therefore “dramatic” for the viewer.
Rembrandt painted mainly portraits and historical stories and scenes. He even made a number of self-portraits, an activity that openly donated little painters. He also gave important people from his life a role in paintings, so we see his wife Saskia van Uylenburgh, his son Titus van Rijn and even his housekeepers and girlfriends in his paintings. Perhaps he used them as models, and therefore the paintings resemble them.
It may be cliché, but from Rembrandt we really want to show his most famous work, the ‘Night Guard’.This huge canvas can be viewed in the Rijksmuseum van Amsterdam. Note that all the people who had paid this masterpiece can be seen on the painting, their size and leaflet depending on the amount they paid. The most prominent are clearly Captain French Banninck Cocq, Lord of Purmerlandt and Ilpendam and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch, Lord of Flanders. Curiously, the clients were not so happy with the result at the time, while today’s painting is one of the most visited in the world!
Jan Steen – the Golden Age
It is a household of Jan Steen, or a mess. This expression derives from the paintings that this 17th century artist produced quite often. Jan Steen was born in Leiden for about 20 years after Rembrandt, somewhere in 1625 or 26, and also died in Leiden on February 23, 1679. He painted entirely in the Baroque style, used humor and ordinary people to make his work alive and , as we said, his paintings often show scenes in a messy state.
His father was a merchant and a brewer and Jan was the oldest of eight children. He studied at the University of Leiden, while at the same time teaching a painting by Nicolaus Knupfer, a German painter.He was later accepted in the Leiden Schilders guild. He later lived temporarily in The Hague, Delft, Haarlem and Warmond, but eventually returned to Leiden.
His work clearly shows (as above) that daily life was important to him. On top of this we see the work ‘the happy family’ and the fun that everyone has is well pictured on the smiling faces. As Jan liked, it was a janbo. If you want to see this painting, you can easily combine it with the Night Watch, it is also possible to visit the Rijksmuseum van Amsterdam. Oh and the paper on the chimney lists (in old Dutch) “so the olds sang, so the boy chokes”.
Johannes Vermeer – the Golden Age
Johannes Vermeer was baptized (probably after birth) in Delft on October 31, 1632, and also buried in Delft on December 15, 1675. Vermeer, together with Jan Steen and Rembrandt van Rijn, is probably one of the most famous Dutch painters, especially from the period of the Golden Age. He was supposedly a reformed family, but changed his faith to Roman Catholicism to marry his love Catharina Bolnes. He was able to produce eleven children with his wife, but he would not fully see ten of them. He died in the year 1675, when the city collapsed because of the Dutch War. The words of his wife are clear about the cause of Vermeer’s sudden expiration: “As a result, and because of the burden of his children, while he had no resources at all, he became so in rage and decay that he was in one or one and a half day of a healthy state died in death. “
However, it did not prevent him from producing about 45 paintings, about two to three a year. This was not as much as Rembrandt, but Vermeer had less help, he probably worked largely solo. In his own time, he was not particularly appreciated (not over many other painters of that age in any case) but in the 19th century there was a revival in the interest of Vermeer Paintings. The sale of the Milk Girl, one of his famous works, was so important that it was discussed in the Lower House.
Even more famous, however, is his painting ‘girl with the pearl’, perhaps because there is a book based on Tracy Chevalier (and later filmed with Colin Firth and Scarlett Johannson as starring). This artwork was painted somewhere in 1665-7, and can be seen in The Hague Mauritshuis. It’s a “tronie”, which means it’s a painting of a face that contains a striking facial expression or character. The model, unlike a normal portrait, is often anonymous, and so the girl with the pearl.
Albert Cuyp – the Golden Age
Albert Cuyp (named after the Albert Cuypmarkt in Amsterdam) was born on October 20, 1620 in Dordrecht and died on November 15, 1691. He was also one of the great painters of the Golden Age, but different from the previous painters. Albert was mainly a landscape painter. He came from a famous painter family and became famous especially because of his landscapes of the Dutch countryside in the early dawn or in the afternoon. He inherited a large sum of money and could hunt his dream without headaches. We also know very little of his life, other than his most active between 1639 and 1660, and he married Cornelia Bosman in 1658. Perhaps the end of his painter career was linked with this marriage. He was also a devoted calvinist, and this was not better reflected than after his dying to find no paintings of other artists in his house. After all, spending money on pure aesthetic matters is not calvinistic!
One of its famous vistas is the ‘river landscape with riders’, a panorama of a meandering river with two riders who let their horses rest. This painting can also be found in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum.
Vincent van Gogh – 19th century
Like Rembrandt van Rijn, this top ten is not complete without Vincent van Gogh. Vincent was born in Zundert on March 30, 1853, and died in the French Auyers sur Oise on July 29, 1890. He worked as a post-impressionist, an art flow that followed (not surprisingly) impressionism. He had a major influence on the later abstraction painting (later more of this). In Amsterdam there is even a whole museum built in the name of Van Gogh, the Van Gogh Museum (how else).
However, Vincent was not recognized in his own time for the genius we currently think he was. He would have only sold one painting, the Red Vineyard, for 400 francs, just before his death! He produced all his (later famous) work in just ten years, after which he, after long suffering from a nervous disease, recovered himself. Perhaps his dramatic end has helped to make his painting famous.
Here we see the Potato Testers, one of his early paintings (1885). It is a heavy-hearted and dark painting of which the poverty and lame drowsiness drops. You can find this excellent example of a painted depression in the Van Gogh museum. Typical of Van Gogh’s style, and that of the postexpressionists in general, are the thick brushstrokes and lack of detail and precision we saw in previous centuries. The most work of Van Gogh is at least “hard”, you love it, or you’re missing it. But what your opinion is about, he left a deep impression on the art world.
Jan Toorop – the turn of the century
Jan Theodorus Toorop, born in the Javanese town of Poerworedjo on December 20, 1858, died in The Hague on March 3, 1928. He was the best-known painter from the period around the 20th century and left an impressionist style in his younger years , although he often used pointillism (painting by just dotting down). In addition to painting, he also worked ceramics, made advertising posters and book tires. Nowadays, art nouveau often associates with him, though he probably never used those terms.
The above work is called Broek in Waterland. Do not be too close to your screen now, because you will not see it. For a distance, it looks much better. Nearly it’s nothing but strange dots. From afar, a beautiful water landscape at dusk. This work is to be admired in the Indianapolis Museum of Arts, Indianapolis, USA.
Piet Mondrian – the 20th century
Finally, Pieter (Cornelis) Mondriaan, born in Amersfoort on March 7, 1872 and died on February 1, 1944 in New York. He was a painter and also an art theorist, and one of the pioneers in the abstract art painting (like Pablo Picasso). He is particularly famous for his geometric and abstract work (see below) and the use of primary colors. He was therefore a source of inspiration for architecture and for other designers who wanted to apply art to objects (think of the Mondriaan chair).
This artwork is called very unoriginal, tableau 1 and was painted in 1921. There are a few more tableaux and compositions (all numbered) made by Mondriaan, all of which seem to be more like this.Compared with Rembrandt’s precise work, or Bruegel’s endless details, this seems a simple painting, but it is not about the work done, but about the originality and creativity of the painter. Mondriaan was one of the first to dare to make and sell such abstract representations, and therefore he deserved to enter the history as pioneer and father of abstract art. Whether you call it ‘art’ or not, it was unique!