The Dutch Golden Age was one of the reasons why there are so many great Dutch artists which include Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals, and Rembrandt van Rijn. During the 17th century, the Netherlands experienced a time of cultural, economic, and scientific prosperity. This period positively impacted the emerging art market, which was characterized by the influence of wealthy patrons and collectors who supported the arts. Many portraits and iconic masterpieces were produced. Artists of later periods, like Vincent van Gogh, were still influenced by the work made during that time by the renowned Dutch masters. Here are 7 famous Dutch artists whose work received international acclaim.
1. Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450 – 1516): Renaissance Dutch Artist
Jerome van Aken, which was Hieronymus Bosch’s real name, was born in ’s-Hertogenbosch, Brabant, where he also worked as an artist. Bosch is a reference to the town he was born in. He worked as a painter even though his wife was rich, and he presumably could afford not to work. Many of his family members were painters as well. Bosch is known for his fantastical and apocalyptic paintings that display religious subjects. He was a member of the religious organization Brotherhood of Our Lady, but after the artist died his work was interpreted as an expression of someone associated with witchcraft or the occult, which is highly unlikely.
The Garden of Earthly Delights is a famous example of his work as an artist. It shows a nightmarish depiction of hell on the right side and naked figures interacting with fantastical animals in the middle. His strange and dreamlike creations made him an influential figure in the art world and served as an inspiration for the Surrealist movement.
2. Frans Hals (1582/83–1666)
Frans Hals was born in Antwerp, the Spanish Netherlands, and died in Haarlem, where he spent most of his life. Around 1610, he became a member of the Guild of St. Luke of Haarlem. He is known for his exceptional work as a portraitist, his spontaneous way of painting, and his loose style similar to the later pieces of Impressionism. Modern artists like Édouard Manet and Vincent van Gogh were influenced by his work.
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In a letter to the French artist Émile Bernard from the year 1888, Vincent van Gogh described the great variety in the work of Frans Hals, an artist focusing almost exclusively on portraits by writing: He painted portraits; nothing nothing nothing but that. […] he did portraits of good citizens with their families, the man his wife, his child; he painted the tipsy drinker, the old fishwife full of a witch’s mirth, the beautiful gypsy whore, babies in swaddling clothes, the gallant, bon vivant gentleman, mustachioed, booted and spurred. While the earlier artworks of Frans Hals, like The Merry Company, often look cheerful, his later pieces seem more somber.
3. Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669)
Rembrandt is not only considered one of the most important painters of the Dutch Golden Age but he is also one of the greatest artists of all time. He was born in 1606 in Leiden as the son of a miller and one of ten children. He attended the Latin School in Leiden and later studied painting under the artist Jacob van Swanenburgh. Rembrandt then went to study art under Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam who was a well-known history painter during that time. Lastman influenced Rembrandt’s preference for mythological and religious works. The artist’s exceptional technical skill, dramatic way of depicting light and shadow, ability to capture moods and expressions, and master a wide range of subjects from portraits to landscapes made him one of the most important figures of Western art history.
His captivating self-portraits, his colossal painting The Night Watch, and The Anatomy Lessons of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp are often regarded as a few of his most famous pieces. The Night Watch is probably his most well-known work. With a dynamic composition and striking contrast between light and dark, the work shows members of a citizen militia. The Anatomy Lessons of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp was commissioned by the Guild of Surgeons. It shows members of the guild watching the anatomist Dr. Nicolaes Tulp dissecting a criminal. The painting includes Rembrandt’s characteristic contrast between light and dark colors and his captivating depiction of the subject’s expressions.
4. Judith Leyster (Baptized 1609 – Buried 1660)
Compared to other artists on this list, Judith Leyster isn’t as famous. She was, however, an important artist of the Dutch Golden Age. The fact that she was a woman makes this achievement even more impressive since the art world was very male-dominated. Judith Leyster became a member of the Haarlem Guild of St Luke when she was 24 years old. She was one of its first female members.
In 1636, she moved to Amsterdam after marrying her husband Jan Miense Molenaer. They both shared a studio. She was influenced by the renowned Dutch portrait painter Frans Hals who was her contemporary. Some of her works have even been falsely attributed to him. She is known for her genre paintings and portraits, with some of her most famous works being Boy Playing the Flute, Carousing Couple, and The Proposition. Lit only by a lamp, the scene in The Proposition shows a man offering a modestly dressed woman money in exchange for sex, but she seems to ignore him. The painting has at times been reinterpreted as a feminist artwork.
5. Johannes Vermeer (Baptized 1632 – 1675)
Johannes Vermeer is another renowned painter who was active during the Dutch Golden Age. He was born in Delft, which was a trade center in the 16th and 17th centuries. Even though today, he is one of the most famous Dutch artists, he wasn’t always as acclaimed. Especially after his death, he became increasingly unknown only to be rediscovered later.
Vermeer’s father was a weaver and an art dealer who later became an innkeeper. In 1653, Vermeer became a master painter in the Delft Guild of Saint Luke, which allowed him to teach students and sell his art in the city.
Vermeer is mostly known for creating genre paintings of everyday life and interior scenes, like Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, or The Milkmaid. Other famous paintings by him include The Art of Painting and Girl with a Pearl Earring, which inspired the novel of the same name that was written by Tracy Chevalier. There’s even a movie based on the novel. His depiction of light and focus on quiet and ordinary scenes which he gave a captivating and serene quality, made him a highly acclaimed artist.
6. Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)
The Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh was born in 1853 in Zundert. He was the son of a Protestant pastor. Vincent worked as an art dealer as well as a preacher before becoming an artist. Through his work as an art dealer, he became acquainted with many works, and he paid attention to what he described as the quick and lively painting style of Frans Hals and Rembrandt. His productive period as an artist lasted only ten years from 1880 to his death in 1890.
One year prior to his death at the age of 37, he committed himself to an asylum in St Rémy. It was also during that year that he made his work Wheat Field with Cypresses, which he thought of as one of his best works. The work depicts a landscape during the summer season. Known for his vivid use of colors and expressive brushstrokes, Van Gogh is regarded as one of the most important post-impressionists. His struggle with mental health problems led to a certain romanticization of his persona and his art. He is often represented as the stereotypical tortured artist who was just as tormented as he was brilliant.
7. Dutch Artist Piet Mondrian (1872 – 1944)
Piet Mondrian, a Dutch painter, and an essential member of the De Stijl movement, was born in 1872. He played a significant role in the advancement of abstract art. He is especially famous for his grid-like paintings consisting of straight lines, black, white, and gray, and the three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue.
Mondrian started to study drawing when he was 14 years old. He wanted to pursue a career as a painter, but his father wanted him to get a degree in education, which he did. He then enrolled at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam. In 1909, he became part of the Theosophical Society, which greatly influenced his work. By comparing earlier works of the artist with his later pieces, one can see how Mondrian moved away from naturalistic depictions and focused on abstract forms. In 1915, he met Theo van Doesburg, who was another member of the De Stijl group. Mondrian also coined the term Neoplasticism and published his essay Neo-Plasticism in Pictorial Art in the journal called De Stijl. Here, he wrote: As a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form.