Dutch Golden Age
The Dutch Golden Age produced master painters like Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Frans Hals. Many artistic styles and trends, such as Haarlem Mannerism, Utrecht Caravaggism, the School of Delft, the Leiden fijnschilders, and Dutch classicism, came to symbolize the era. Art, nonetheless, is only one area where great progress was made during this period. From the late sixteenth century to late seventeenth century, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, also known as the United Provinces or Dutch Republic, underwent a political transformation which led to the advancement of the economy, science, and art. The artists of the time, while seen to be affecting their times, the converse is also true: the artists were profoundly affected by it. The changes in the political, religious, scientific, and economy climate are clearly reflected in the various artistic styles, and choice of subject in the art produced.
In order to truly understand the achievements of Dutch Golden Age, one must understand the history of the region. The name Netherlands, or De Nederlanden in Dutch, refers to a region known as The Low Countries. The region roughly corresponds to the present-day Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemberg, and small part of Germany and France. The region was composed of many small counties, duchies, and bishoprics. In early sixteenth century, the region was under the control of Spanish Habsburgs, the most powerful royal house of its time. In 1568, after years of high taxation, religious persecution of the Protestants by their Catholic ruler, and Spain's attempt to reorganize the decentralized structure, the Low Countries revolted against its Habsburg ruler. The Dutch were led by William I of Orange, the revolt quickly grew into a full scale war, known as the Eighty Years' War. During the war, the southern Low Countries fell into Spanish hands fairly early. Fortunately, a war between England and Spain broke out, forcing Spain to redirect its resources to fighting the English. This gave the yet-to-be conquered northern Low Countries the time to reorganize. In 1579, several provinces in the northern Low Countries signed the Union of Utrech. The treaty promised the mutual defense of the provinces against the Spanish, and also centralized the fragmented duchies and counties. The treaty was considered to be the foundation of the Dutch Republic. In 1581, the northern Low Countries declared their independence from Spanish Habsburg ruler, Philip II, by Act of Abjuration. In 1648, after years of war, the Peace of Westphalia finally ended the war between Dutch Republic and Spanish Empire, and Dutch Republic became a recognized sovereign state. In spite of being locked into an extremely long conflict with the Spanish, the Dutch Republic flourished by dominating the world sea trade, and acquiring many oversea colonial possessions. In many ways, it is a surprise to both us and its ??? contemporary that the Dutch Republic survived being surrounded by powerful empires.
One of the main driving forces behind Dutch Golden Age was its economic growth from trade, industrialization, and the development of new economic models. This is pre- industrial revolution… is this the word you want? The young republic dominated the global sea trade for the better part of the Seventeenth century. The new ship building technology enabled nations to build stronger and larger ships in a short amount of time. During the Golden Age, the Dutch Republic operated the single largest merchant fleet in all of Europe, if not the world. The vast number of ships helped the republic link the numerous oversea colonial ports into a trade network. This network brought in tremendous wealth for the Dutch.
Wealth, however, was not the only thing that came back with the trade ships. Objects, and accounts of Dutch overseas colonies were brought back to Netherlands. These exchange of ideas became an important part of the Golden Age. At its height of power, the republic possesed territories that spanned four continents from North America, South America, Africa, to Asia. These colonial possessions, interestingly, were run by companies rather than the government itself. One of the most notable examples is the Dutch East India Company, or VOC. What does VOC stand for? The company was granted a Monopoly to carry out colonial activity in Asia by for? the Dutch Republic. It gave VOC power that was unheard of during that time; they had the ability to maintain their own army and fleet, wage war, negotiate treaties with foreign nations, and established colonies. In many ways, VOC was the precursor of modern megacorporations, and also the first company to issue stock. Furthermore, technological innovations, like the windmill, increased the productivity of different industries. This, in turn, created surplus of food and goods that could then be sold to neighboring nations for money, which gave rise to the wealth Dutch middle class. Members of this wealthy new class became important patrons of art who helped shape the style of the art in Netherlands. Specifics… Because of the importance of wealth in defining social status, divisions between classes were less sharply defined and social mobility was much greater than elsewhere. Calvinism, which preaches humility as an important virtue, also tended to diminish the importance of social differences. These tendencies have proved remarkably persistent: modern Dutch society, though much more secularized, is still considered by many to be remarkably egalitarian. Interesting. Is this a quote?Dutch society, though much more secularized, is still considered by many to be remarkably egalitarian.
Another important aspect of the Dutch Golden Age was religion. In 1517, Martin Luther's The Ninety-Five Theses started the Protestant Reformation, sparking series of religious wars. Religious persecution became wide spread through Europe. The majority of Dutch people were Protestant, and they suffered persecution under the reign of Catholic Spain. When the northern Low Counties declared their independence from the Spanish Habsburgs, the Netherlands became a safe haven for people who were escaping religious conflicts. The Dutch Republic was also relatively tolerant toward the Jews compared to many of its Catholic neighbors. When the southern Low Countries fell into Spanish hands, large number of people fled to the unoccupied north. These people brought with them skills and expertise that strengthened the economic structure. Furthermore, Protestantism's belief in universal priesthood of believers created a much more favorable climate for science and free thought to develop. This belief is based on the idea that its every Christian's duty to read Bible and read it in vernacular, as oppose to Latin. Also the faithful should take part in affairs of the Church, instead of giving all the responsibility to a few individuals. Since only priests and educated individuals could read Latin, interpretation of the Bible rested solely on the clergyman. By translating the Bible into different languages, people began able to read Bible on their own, instead of relying heavily on the interpretation of the Catholic Church. This essentially eliminated the need of a central religious institution, like the Roman Catholic Church which had been an omnipresent entity in every Christian's life for well over a thousand years. With the powerful central religious institution gone, scientists and freethinkers faced less censorship and had more freedom to progress. Additionally, most Dutch Protestants practiced a specific form of Protestantism called Calvinism. The Calvinist teachings set strict rules on the use of imagery in places of worship, which is considered idolatrous and corrupt
Artistic movement during the Dutch Golden Age was greatly influenced by the social and religious change happening in the region. The Dutch artists made great innovations in architecture, painting, and sculpture. However, sculpture was not as prominent as the other two disciplines as result of the unique nature of Dutch Republic. Artisans of the time, especially sculptors, depended heavily on commissions from the Church and ruling sovereigns for support. However, during the Golden Age, the Republic was not ruled by sovereigns or nobility; it was governed by a group of stadtholders appointed by each independent province to represent them in States-General, the federal government in The Hague. To make the matter worse, the Dutch Calvinist church considered the use of religious imagery idolatrous. As a result, sculpture was rarely associated with the Dutch Golden Age.
The paintings and architectures produced, however, more than make up for it. Architecture was important in the building boom of new town halls, warehouses, estates, and houses as a result of the huge economy expansion of the Dutch Republic. Being the first republic in Northern Europe, many of the state buildings referenced elements from classical antiquity to reflect its democratic value. Dutch architecture also spread to many of its oversea colonies where it is still present today. Without a doubt, painters contributed the most to the Dutch art movement of the time. Their paintings were known for their quality and for their quantity; the sheer number of Dutch paintings produced was also unprecedented. The rise of the wealthy middle class, meant that being a painter actually became a respected and lucrative profession, where people would paint to sell to customers instead of relying of commission. One adverse side effect of this phenomenon was that some of paintings produced tended to be lower quality. The subject of the painting also changed greatly from the previous century. Gone were the historical and religious paintings that drove the art movements in the past century. Without the support of the patronage system, these paintings were simply not cost effective to make because no one would buy them. Portraiture, however, was still fairly popular, but it no longer depicted royals or the nobility, rather it featured individuals wealthy enough to have their portraits painted. Paintings that depicted everyday life, or genre paintings, also became immensely popular.
During the Dutch Golden Age, the Dutch Republic transformed itself from a collection of small provinces to a global empire that rivaled many other European powers of the time. Their true achievement, however, is not the empire they created, but rather the ideas and systems they established and developed. The Dutch Republic offered a glimpse of the present day from the past predating the birth of the United States. Nice idea… awk sentence Even though, like all empires, it eventually fell, its legacy in art, religion, and economics continue to exist to the present day.
Buxall, Bettina. 2008, August 2. Beige plague. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved Ocotber 25, 2009, from http://www.latimes.com
Cain, Singh-Cundy, & Yoon. 2007. Discover Biology. 4th Ed. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.
Gibson, Arthur C. Rundel, Philip W. 2005. Ecological Communities and Processes in a Mojave Desert Ecosystem. 1st Ed. London: Cambridge Universxaity Press.
Lockwood, Julie. 2007. Invasion Ecology. 1st Ed. Boston: Blackwell Publishing.
Young, James A. 2009. Cheatgrass: Fire and Forage on the Range. 1st Ed. Nevada: University of Nevada Press.