From Rembrandt & Vermeer to Jan Davidsz de Heem - Artists and Paintings of the Dutch Golden Age

Rembrandt and Vermeer are familiar names but so many more artists painted wonderful visual feasts of 17th century Dutch Art in extravagant table feasts, interesting portraits, peeking behind closed doors, humorous pub scenes and life on the seas. The love of Dutch Golden Age art is enduring and in this series of three lectures we will look at not only the celebration of the wonderful open Dutch landscape or still- life of abundant flower painting also the countless tips to social history that we can see in the richly laden tables, and dark but well dressed portraits of the time.

This class will be delivered online via the online platform Zoom. Enrolling students need to ensure they have an email, a reliable internet connection, microphone/speakers and access to a tablet, smartphone or computer.


  • A Window to the 17th Century Dutch Home: What hints do we get today from the 17th century home life to be seen from the Dutch interior paintings of such artists as Vermeer and Dou, Metsu, ter Borch, de Hooch, Maes, van Mieris, & Netscher. Why is there still a Dutch saying about a “Jan Steen” household – a direct reference to the bawdy but moral messaged paintings of painter Jan Steen and his rich visual humour. From the narrative we can see within the Dutch interior paintings to the beloved image of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring or the Night Watch of Rembrandt there is so much to visually read. We see a rich array of works, depicting Dutch society, fabrics, material culture and social change, lifestyle, and attitudes which we will explore in this session.
  • Landscapes, Wide Skies and Winter scenes: The Dutch landscape painting typically gives us a wide view with an enormous sky of dominant clouds. What typically populates such landscapes? The painter Paulus Potter was a painter of cows and this very Dutch animal related to dairying and cheese, remains a strong image of Dutch rural life. But birds also feature in much-loved Dutch paintings, particularly by the masters of Jan Weenix and Melchioir d’Hondecoeter. Outdoor winter scenes by Avercamp of ice fairs depict the love of ice skating in the 17th century. Many features of these paintings are still to be seen if the temperature drops and the Dutch flock to natural ice. Dutch marine painting is also an important genre, reflecting this nation of the sea. These paintings show the story of this maritime power, of Dutch exploration and the Dutch East India Company and the wealth that brough to Golden Age merchants, but also of naval wars with Britain and everyday life connected to the sea.
  • The Embarrassment of Riches of the Golden Age: In 17th century Dutch Still-life paintings, we see the richness and abundance of the Golden Age. We see tables heaped with exotic products from citrus of the Mediterranean, pepper and spices from the East Indies, wine from the warmer climes. In the most elaborate banquet scenes are often also nautilus cups, with a gold and silver cup or tazza and delicate Venetian glasses. An important feature will be a Chinese ceramic bowl, expensive and newly imported from the Far East. Still life painters such as Willem Heda, Pieter Claesz., Jan Davidsz. de Heem and Abraham van Beyeren also painted kitchen scenes, including game, fish and poultry and often cheese. Some artists specialised in flower paintings with the Tulip often included amongst other proliferations of beautiful flowers. In this last session we will analyse many of these paintings and understand what is being shown, who it may have appealed to and where you may find these works today.


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Have an enhanced awareness of the key artists of the Dutch Golden Age but also recognise some of the significant other painters.
  2. Recognise the major genres of the Dutch Golden Age.
  3. Have an understanding of the economic and social influences on this major period of outstanding visual cultural output.
  4. Identify and provide some self- analysis to the paintings and styles of the Dutch Golden Age.

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