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Seventeenth-Century Painting in the Netherlands


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Assessment: a 3000-word essay (60%) and three-hour take-home examination (40%)

Module description

This module examines painting in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century, against the backdrop of fundamental political, economic and religious transformations. After the Reformation, the Revolt of the Netherlands led to the establishment of the Protestant Dutch Republic, while Flanders remained Catholic and was controlled by Spain.

We will consider how this division influenced the direction of art in the two regions, looking at style, iconography patronage and the emergences of new markets. We shall examine the development of the so-called lesser genres of painting at this time: portraiture, landscape and still-life, and at how some artists began to specialise in a particular type of art in order to meet the demands of their customers. We will look at the work of key masters from both North and South, including Rembrandt, Rubens and van Dyck.

Indicative module content

  • Introduction
  • The Revolt of the Netherlands
  • Dutch Mannerism: Joachim Wtewael and Cornelis Bloemaert
  • Honthorst, Ter Brugghen and other Dutch followers of Caravaggio and their influence on Rembrandt
  • Rubens's political Allegories
  • Rubens's religious works, including altarpieces and tapestries
  • Rubens and Van Dyck in Italy and the Netherlands
  • Rembrandt's portraits and self-portraits
  • Frans Hals
  • Dutch landscape painters, including Breenburgh and Poelenburgh (from Utrecht) and Jacob van Ruisdael (from Haarlem)
  • The Flemish landscape tradition, from Pieter Bruegel the Elder to Rubens in the 1630s
  • Dutch genre painting, including Pieter de Hoogh
  • Jan Vermeer
  • Still life painting: Samuel van Hoogstraten, Clara Peeters, Jan Brueghel, Rubens and Snyders

    Learning objectives

    By the end of this module, you should have:

    • acquired a detailed knowledge of seventeenth-century painting in the Netherlands
    • an ability to observe, identify and analyse works of visual culture
    • a critical awareness of the functions of such works within the social and cultural contexts of their production and reception
    • become familiar with current debates and approaches to the subject
    • an ability to analyse and interpret critically historical evidence.