The 10 Most Important Old Dutch Masters Painters
The Dutch Golden Age began in the 1650s and lasted until the 17th century, during which time The Netherlands created a vast number of masterpieces in all styles of painting, beginning with the awe-inspiring original works of Hieronymus Bosch. Although most people are familiar with towering personalities like Rembrandt or Vermeer, there are more than just two figures that contribute to an art movement. Art lovers in this country have a wide variety of options to choose from, ranging from a lady who achieved success on a global scale to Dürer’s greatest opponent from the Netherlands. Learn more about Holland with our handy guide to the country’s most famous Old Masters.
Dutch Masters Painters: #1 Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Rembrandt van Rijn was a master of observation, chiaroscuro, and maybe most significantly, ruthless honesty. This can be seen in some of his most famous works, which are self-portraits. Rembrandt van Rijn is considered to be the finest and most famous portrait painter of all time. The quantity of paintings, drawings, and etchings that he produced is amazing, but art historians and critics can’t agree on how many he worked on. Regardless of how many he produced, the collection includes around 45 paintings, 30 etchings, and seven drawings. The passage of time is shown to have wreaked havoc on the artist’s face without any trace of vanity being conveyed, and the results are devastating if viewed in quick succession. His depictions of biblical scenes and etchings are both works of art in their own right, but it will be his portraits that remain as his legacy.
Dutch Masters Painters: #2 Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)
Vermeer was so obscure during his lifetime that he is now universally acknowledged as one of the greatest artists of all time. Vermeer, like many other painters working in the Netherlands during the Golden Age of Painting, was captivated by light and the faithful and beautiful depiction of it on canvas. This is most clearly apparent in his most well-known work, Girl With a Pearl Earring, which is often considered to be one of the greatest examples of western art because of the way light plays over the different materials in the painting and the lovely reflection that shines on the pearl earring. Vermeer’s best works typically feature windows, and he would employ the camera obscura, which became widely available in the Netherlands in the middle of the 17th century, to represent the light streaming through the windows in ways that had never been seen in his time.
Dutch Masters Painters: #3 Pieter Brueghel the Elder (c. 1525-1569)
Brueghel defied the tradition of Italian mannerism, which was so widespread in his era, and instead looked back to the Gothic age of Hieronymus Bosch. This was done in an attempt to find inspiration for his work. His early work has the imprint of Bosch, but it is moderated by the shifts in Christian morals brought forth by thinkers such as Martin Luther. Soon, however, he created a distinctive technique in which man and nature were portrayed as being perfectly balanced and in harmony with one another. He did this without obscuring either the vast sweep of nature or the distinctive personality of each individual man depicted in the picture.
Dutch Masters Painters: #4 Jan Steen (1626-1679)
Steen, who worked primarily as a genre painter (the third highest in the genre hierarchy of its day below epic and portrait painting), was able to infuse humor into what had historically been a fairly serious field of endeavor. Steen changed composition forever by introducing untidiness into his work to reflect human untidiness over sanitized depictions of everyday life. He did this to eschew the romanticization of the peasantry that was practiced by many of his contemporaries. Steen also altered composition by introducing untidiness into his work. There’s a reason why the expression “Jan Steen household” is still used in Dutch; it refers to a home that is bustling with activity as well as cluttered with clutter.
Dutch Masters Painters: #5 Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516)
Hieronymus Bosch, a genuinely singular figure in the history of Dutch painting, was at once the master of the harmonic and the horrific, as is shown in the triptych panel picture that he called The Garden of Earthly Delights, which is recognized all over the world. This amazing and horrifying masterpiece cannot be adequately described using even tens of thousands of words. It is a precursor to the surreal and would go on to influence a wide range of artists and musicians over the course of several centuries, including Goya, Dal, David Lynch, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few. Heaven is on the left and hell is on the right. A peculiar and intriguing outlier in the development of Dutch painting.
Dutch Masters Painters: #6 Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533)
Van Leyden was a radical thinker in his own right and lived during the same time as Bosch. After all, he was one of the earliest Dutch artists to work in the genre painting style, which was an area that Dutch painters would come to dominate over the course of the next two centuries. In addition to this, he was a master engraver working in copperplate, and he is considered to have been as important an engraver to Holland as Dürer was to Germany. Leyden’s engravings of his paintings were a significant means for the rising Dutch style to get known to an audience across the continent at a time when paintings were only available to a wealthy customer.
Dutch Masters Painters: #7 Frans Hals (1580-1666)
Frans Hals was a generation older than Rembrandt, yet he lived almost as long as the great painter, and many of Rembrandt’s paintings would not have been possible without Frans Hals’ contributions. The Laughing Cavalier, which is considered to be Hals’ most well-known work, is characterized by the painter’s characteristically looser and more free-flowing brushwork than that of any artist who had come before him. This imparts a lively sense of movement and a lived-in quality to many of the artist’s studies. If this hadn’t happened, to put it more plainly, Rembrandt’s portraits would not have anywhere like the prestige that they do, and the route that portraiture took all the way up until Lucian Freud would have been quite different indeed.
Dutch Masters Painters: #8 Hendrick Terbrugghen (1588-1629)
The work of Caravaggio began to have an impact on Dutch painting with the arrival of Hendrick Terbrugghen. Terbrugghen, who was a member of the artistic movement known as Utrecht Caravaggism, is credited with introducing the play of light and shadow, as well as darkness and illumination, to canvases all throughout the Netherlands. Dutch paintings on canvas, such as those that Vermeer would go on to produce a few decades following Terbrugghen’s passing. Primarily active in the illustrious field of epic painting, he introduced a suppleness and vivacity to a tradition that was frequently dry and drab. Despite the fact that we are only able to confirm a painting career that lasted for a little over a decade, this was an important decade in the development of Dutch painting, of which Caravaggio is a direct ancestor.
Dutch Masters Painters: #9 Willem Kalf (1619-1693)
Even though he worked in still life, which is the lowest form of painting according to the traditional hierarchy, many people in our more democratic age have called him the Vermeer of still life due to his expertise in depicting light. This is because still life is considered the lowest form of painting. By painting so-called “ostentatious still lives” (from the Dutch “pronkstilleven”) featuring selections of opulent objects, Kalf perfectly demonstrates his technique from a selection of shiny, glittering, or glassy objects, as can be seen in his finest work Still Life with Drinking Horn (circa 1653), which is housed in the National Gallery in London.
Dutch Masters Painters: #10 Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750)
Rachel Ruysch achieved international fame during her own lifetime after a very long career during which she specialized in flower paintings full of the vibrant colors and delicate interplay of light and darkness we have come to expect from Dutch Golden Age painting. Whereas the masterworks created by women in the history of painting have often been left undiscovered, Rachel Ruysch was able to achieve this fame during her own lifetime. Her gender relegated her to what was considered to be the most basic type of painting, yet the fact that she was so successful in this medium demonstrates how exceptional she is.
Topic: The 10 Most Important Old Dutch Masters Painters
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