The Dutch Golden Age is Hot… Again

For centuries, art of the Dutch Golden Age (1588 -1672) has enjoyed an enduring popularity. The increase of reproductions of the most iconic art of this time means it's likely most of us encountered, for example, an image of a Vermeer painting before we had ever heard the artist's name.

Art studios flourished as prosperity of the Dutch Republic during this time created a widespread demand for art. In addition, the rejection of Catholicism by the Dutch drove a preference for secular paintings - still lifes, portraits and scenes of daily life that still resonate with viewers today. 

The publication of two popular memoirs in 2023, both centered on the Dutch Golden Age, speaks to the ongoing admiration and fascination many of us have with the art of this time and place.

In The Upside-Down World by Benjamin Moser, we are invited to experience the Dutch Golden Age through Moser's experience with these artists and paintings. Moser's love of the Dutch Golden age began with the author's relocation to the Netherlands in his 20s. He's an adept tour guide in this intimate, beautifully illustrated book that will appeal to those new to the subject as well as more informed readers.

For an even more personal take, pick up Laura Cummings' Thunderclap, an exquisite narrative that tenderly explores the intersections of life and art. Cummings is an art critic who came to Dutch art early, and she frames her narrative around the short life of Carel Fabritius and prominently features her late father, the Scottish painter James Cumming. It was one of our favorite books of 2023.

The Dutch Golden Age was also featured on the screen in 2023 in the critically acclaimed and engaging documentary Close to Vermeer, about the curation of an exhibition of Vermeer's work (only 34 paintings are definitively attributed to the artist) at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The Dutch Golden Age often pops up in fiction, too. Notably, the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was awarded to Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. Set in contemporary times, the novel is not about the Dutch Golden Age, but Carel Fabritius' The Goldfinch plays a starring role and most certainly increased interest in Fabritius' work.

Likewise, Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (also adapted for film) is a fictional account of Vermeer and the adolescent subject of his, arguably, most iconic painting and the genesis of the novel was a poster reproduction of the painting that Chevalier acquired when she was nineteen. 

Tell us about your favorite work inspired by the Dutch Golden Age in the comments.