Going Dutch

  • 01st June 2015
Painting by Johannes Vermeer


With the largest number of museums per square kilometre than any other country in the world, Holland attracts tourists from all across the globe in search of the famous Dutch Masters. Fly with bmi regional to Rotterdam from Munich, and experience some of the worlds greatest art.

Background to the Netherlands and its artistic riches

When The United Provinces of the Northern Netherlands became independent in 1579, and, finally drove the Spanish from their soil 30 years later. This independence triggered the Dutch Golden Age, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. The 17th century brought great prosperity to the Netherlands. Dutch merchants fanned out across the globe in seek of new products and markets. This trading capability created an affluent middle class that were the driving forces in the great art and artists to come. As the middle class grew, it created a new strong demand for realistic paintings, such as portraits and images of working life.

Dutch painting style has evolved significantly over the following few hundred years and each century has turned out at least one painter who later went on to revolutionise the art world. Today, the best-known painters of the Dutch Golden Age and the centuries to come are the period’s most dominant figure Rembrandt, the Delft master of stiff life, Johannes Vermeer,


Rembrandt was a millers son, in other words, he came from a middle class background. He started young and was recognised almost at once. Rembrandt became one of the most progressive painters of the 17th Century, and because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called “one of the great prophets of civilisation”.

'The Night Watch’ - Rembrandt

By 1631 he was so renowned for his portraiture that Rembrandt attracted several commissions from Amsterdam including his most famous painting, ‘The Night Watch’. Rembrandt painted the large painting showing a militia company –a party of musketeers stepping from a gloomy courtyard into the blinding sunlight. The piece was commissioned for the new hall of the Kloveniersdoelen in1642, and now hangs in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. However, after Rembrandt was declared bankrupt in1656, his paintings took a more sombre tone – the self-portraits he painted after his bankruptcy clearly depict his personal worry and financial concerns.


Vermeer is one of the most famous Dutch artists of the 17th Century and his paintings are distinctive in their use of transparent colours, light and perfect composition. Vermeer mainly painted domestic interior scenes – his two landscape pieces are framed with a window. Vermeer’s pictures have an everyday reality, with a focus on the minutiae.

Johannes Vermeer

Following his sudden death in 1675, his work went underappreciated for centuries before getting deserved recognition at the end of the 19th Century. He is an artist who is immediately accessible, making his years of neglect all the more astonishing. Vermeer’s most famous painting, ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’, hangs in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, just 30 minutes from Rotterdam Airport. When you fly to Rotterdam with bmi regional, you can visit nearby Deflt, where Vermeer lived and many of the objects of his paintings were set.


The 19thCentury was renowned for Amsterdam Impressionism – an art movement inspired by French Impressionism and introduced to the Netherlands by the artists of the Hague School. The movement was predominantly adopted by the young generation of artists who painted onto canvas with rapid, visible strokes and the majority of impressionist art focused on depicting everyday life.


Vincent van Gogh was a post Impressionist painter whose work was most known for its rough beauty and bold colour. Despite not starting to paint until his late 20s, van Gogh produced his entire portfolio of works over a period of just ten years. The sad tale of his short life was characterised by turbulence which he transformed in his art into a passionate search for stability – and even life itself.


After years of anxiety and mental illness, he died aged 37 having only managed to sell one painting during his lifetime. By the mid-20th Century, van Gogh was seen as one of the greatest painters in history. Today his most famous paintings hang in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and his works are among the world’s most expensive paintings ever sold.


In early 20th Century Holland, pointillism was a popular style before modern art techniques began to arrive in the country. Artists of this era began to shift towardsabstract techniques including cubism, which originated in France, and expressionism. After World War I, the ‘De Stijl’ art movement emerged; a bold and contemporary art style that consisted only of primary colours and vertical and horizontal lines.


Piet Mondriaan was an important contributor to the De Stijl art movement. He led the evolution of a non-representational form (termed neo-plasticism) which consisted of a grid of vertical and horizontal blacklines and three primary colours on a white background.


Mondrian’s art was said to be intimately related to his spiritual and philosophical studies and he even joined the Dutch branch of the Theosophical Society.