Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age July 16-19, 2017
Self-portrait by Rembrandt, 1640
With the founding of the Dutch East India Company in 1602 and the establishment of largely peaceful relations with its Catholic neighbors, the Netherlands became arguably the world's foremost maritime and economic power. The construction of a massive fleet of trading ships and burgeoning trade with the East and the Baltic states gave rise to a very wealthy aristocracy and merchant class. With the flood of Protestant immigrants from Belgium and France occurring throughout the 17th century, the small port city of Amsterdam grew into one of Europe's most important commercial centers. Through corresponding developments in nance, technology, and science, combined with the rise of religious tolerance and a newly a uent middle class, the Netherlands flourished like no other nation in Europe. This was the Dutch Golden Age.
The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer, 1660
A major expression of the age's prosperity and social outlook is readily apparent in the visual arts. With the development of oil painting, Rembrandt van Rijn became the acknowledged master of the medium. With wealthy patrons replacing the patronage of the Church, such artists as Rembrandt, the Delft master Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals, and the great landscape painter Jacob van Ruisdael, along with many others, enjoyed both wealth and celebrity. History painting, portraiture, landscape and still life painting replaced those of conventional religious subjects-indeed, Calvinist tenets forbade religious iconography as idolatry. Never before had a society experienced such a proliferation of artists and paintings. New trade guilds, along with middle-class households, could now afford the often self-aggrandizing adornments on their walls. And yet, such works as Girl with the Pearl Earring would take us to realms we had never visited before. In this way also, it was the age of exploration.
In two and a half days, we'll examine the history of the Netherlands in the 17th century and the art that continues to make that time so vivid to us. Among those serving as faculty are George Bent, Childress Professor in the Arts; Michelle Brock, assistant professor of history; and Erich Uffelman, Bentley Professor of Chemistry. This program also anticipates a W&L Traveller program in Amsterdam in October of 2017.
Above: Meagre Company by Frans Hals, 1633-37.