During the 17th century, the Netherlands appears to become a very powerful country, as well as from an economic and political point of view, or from a cultural point a view. Dutch artists come up with new styles of paintings and new techniques, and it seems that Dutch patrons give more freedom to artists, compared to Italian patrons.
Painters like Vermeer opt for classic scenes of daily life, i.e. “genre paintings”, as we can see it when observing his Het Schilderkunst. The work of art depicts a simple studio, in which a man –maybe Vermeer himself?- paints a woman, identified as Clio, the Greek muse of History. On the wall behind, a large map of the Netherlands is hung. Everything in this painting seems quite normal for the time, except maybe the painter’s outfit, which is a bit out of place. Another example would be the Lady standing at the Virginals, which portrays a young, and probably rich, woman standing in front of virginal in a house, where again, there are paintings on the wall.
Other artists, like Rembrandt, work on landscapes. The Three Trees is one of his most famous pieces, in which he combined techniques like etching, dry point and engraving. The print, directly inspired from nature, shows with a great deal of details concerning the clouds, the hill, a small cottage, the trees and bushes. But Rembrandt also works on portraits, in particular his. He painted several Self-portraits at different periods of his life (one in 1628-29, another one in 1669), and we can easily observe that his techniques are quite different. On the first one, he uses a fijn technique, meaning that the sense of texture and details are more pronounced, whereas for the second one, he uses painterly effects, with well-visible brush strokes and impasto passages. We could see a relationship between the fact that Rembrandt paints himself and what Descartes writes in Discourse on the method of Rightly, when he says, “I at length resolved to make myself an object of study”....
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