The Art Of The Dutch Republic Essay

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The Art Of The Dutch Republic Essay, Research Paper ‘Dutch art (is) not …a literal record of social experience, but …a document of beliefs.’ Do what extent to the following sources support this view with regard to the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century? (750 words) Human expression provides a mechanism by which human behaviour can be studied by the historian, and in aesthetic expression such as art, the historian can study the beliefs which influence human behaviour. Within the alleged ‘Golden Age’ of the Dutch Republic can be found a diverse mixture of paintings, and sources 1-3 show three different genres in particular: landscape, portrait and still life. Provided that the limitations of making generalisations over these paintings are considered, they

both support and contradict the above view of Simon Schama, perhaps because of – in his words – ‘the moral ambiguity of good fortune’ (source 4) which seemed to exist tantamount to social experience in the Netherlands. Source 1 is superficially a ‘literal record of social experience.’ Topographically, it can provide insight into the type of land which existed in the Northern Provinces, and the reliance on agriculture and natural wind power to reclaim land and provide nutrition. However, although Dutch painters conveyed realism in terms of the photographic nature of their work, this did not mean that their paintings were exact representations of specific landmarks. In source 1, the church and the windmill shown could be specific religious symbols, reiterating the views

of sources 6 and 7 – fellow Dutch contemporaries – that the ‘hand of God’ and the ‘eternal covenant’ were imperative in the Dutch securing their freedom from Spain. The windmill – as well as conveying a social experience – is a symbol of the God given power of nature, this supported by the panoramic and naturalistic view of the painting, with the majority focusing on the sky. A political belief which can also be represented is the ruined castle, perhaps signifying the fall of the aristocracy and the emergence of the new egalitarian society through the Revolt. It is important to note that such interpretations can differ, and that it is not always possible to make distinctions between ‘belief’ and ‘experience,’ nor to gauge an objective opinion on an

individual painting. However, source 1 combines a simple conveyance of economic and social life in the Netherlands with some of the religious and social beliefs which shaped this life, much of which is supported by sources 6 and 7. Portraiture in particular was a genre that flourished in the social conditions of the Dutch Republic, with many portraits being bought and commissioned by members of the middle class, which is why William Aglionby states in source 5 ‘pictures are very common here … across all ranks of the population.’ Source 2 shows this aspect of social experience, supported by Simon Schama’s view in source 4 that ‘at the center of the Dutch world was a burgher, not a bourgeois.’ It shows that Dutch social experience was particularly reliant on the middle

class, and that professionals worked collaboratively in groups. The patron saint of guilds Matthias is conveyed in this painting, showing a religious significance to their work and perhaps this religious significance is the main reason for the moral values that can be found behind this literal exterior. These values are also supported by the third painting, source 3. It can be found that along with the ‘peak of prosperity and greatness’ (source 6) which the Netherlands ‘superior in riches’ (source 5) was experiencing, was an increasing concern that material wealth and riches were transient, and that the futility of life and inevitability of death must be accepted. In source 2, the burghers are dressed in black, to show an impression of Puritan discipline but the material