A History of Dutch Painting in Six Pictures

In January and February 2015, John Walsh offered a series of six lectures that explored the Golden Age of Dutch art. Presented in conjunction with an installation of a group of important paintings on loan to the Gallery from the collection of Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo, each lecture focused on a single work—some from the van Otterloo collection, some from Dutch museums.

Lecture Series

John Walsh, B.A. 1961, Director Emeritus of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and a specialist in Dutch paintings, offered a series of six lectures that explored the art of the Dutch Republic during its extraordinary flowering in the 17th century. By focusing on a single work each week and examining its artistic, intellectual, and political contexts, the audience became familiar with six great paintings and the artists who made them. Three of the works were on view at the Gallery and the others are in Dutch museums. Walsh examined the artists’ intentions, the role of competition in the art market, and the development of styles. The lecture series was free and open to the public, and it coincided with the loan of thirty important Dutch and Flemish paintings to the Gallery from the collection of Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo.

Learn More about the van Otterloo Collection

Recommended Readings

The best up-to-date introduction to Dutch art is A Worldly Art: The Dutch Republic, 1585–1718, by Mariët Westermann (1996). It is available both new and used from online retailers; in New Haven, it is also available at Atticus Bookstore and Café on Chapel Street.

Also strongly recommended is Bob Haak’s The Golden Age: Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century (1984). This huge, richly illustrated survey is still the best book on the subject, though it is currently out of print. Used copies can be purchased from online retailers, such as abebooks.com or amazon.com.

Lecture Video

To view a recording of the most recent lecture from this series, play the video at left. Previous lectures in the series are available on the Gallery’s YouTube channel.


Lecture 1

Abraham Bloemaert’s Deluge (ca. 1590–95) and the Dawn of the Golden Age

Friday, January 23, 2015, 1:30 pm

This arrangement of almost life-size nudes—an unusual subject for a Dutch painting—is by a master who lived long into the 17th century and was famous for his virtuosity and skill as a teacher. The painting in the Gallery’s collection, a spectacular ballet of fear and impending doom, exemplifies the ideals of the first generation of great Dutch artists.

Lecture 2

Jan Steen’s Card Players (ca. 1660) and Dutch Genre Painting

Friday, January 30, 2015, 1:30 pm

Dutch painters of the 17th century fed an avid market for pictures of vice and virtue in both humble and grand settings. This picture by Holland’s leading painter of humorous folklife, from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo collection, shows an overdressed soldier being gulled by a girl in an elegant-looking house of ill repute. Walsh discussed Jan Steen’s career and other varieties of genre painting.

Lecture 3

Jacob van Ruisdael’s Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede (ca. 1668–70) and Dutch Landscape

Friday, February 6, 2015, 1:30 pm

A famous work in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, this picture requires a slow, close look in order to see beyond its reputation and observe its subtleties. Walsh examined the place of the work in the career of Jacob van Ruisdael, the finest of all Dutch landscape painters, and considered it in the context of the many new landscape subjects that developed in the 17th century.

Lecture 4

The Night Watch (1642): Rembrandt, Group Portraiture, and Dutch History

Friday, February 13, 2015, 1:30 pm

Rembrandt van Rijn’s painting The Night Watch is the centerpiece and climax of the recent reinstallation at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and for good reason: it shows Rembrandt at his most inventive, ambitious, and idealistic. The painting gives heartfelt life and power to a traditional formula for portraiture. To reach a deeper understanding of the work, Walsh looked at it in the context of what the artist’s clients might have expected.

Lecture 5

Frans Hals’s Portrait of a Preacher (ca. 1660): Virtuosity and the Rough Style

Friday, February 20, 2015, 1:30 pm

Frans Hals usually painted life-size portraits, but he also made a number of tiny likenesses. Among the loans from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo collection is a painting hardly bigger than a sheet of paper, in which Hals’s celebrated brushwork, loose and suggestive, is scaled down to breathtaking effect. It is a masterpiece of virtuosity and intensity. In this lecture, Walsh surveyed the careers of Hals and his competitors.

Lecture 6

Johannes Vermeer’s View of Delft (ca. 1660–61): The Prose and Poetry of View Painting

Friday, February 27, 2015, 1:30 pm

Johannes Vermeer invented no new subjects; instead, he transformed the familiar subjects he inherited by using techniques that suffused them with a kind of visual magic. The View of Delft, his city view in the collection of the Mauritshuis, The Hague, is based on a long tradition of topographical paintings, none of which has the same unforgettable effect. Walsh investigated what sets this painting apart.

About John Walsh

John Walsh, B.A. 1961, is Director Emeritus of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and a specialist in Dutch paintings. He was a paintings curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He received a Ph.D. from Columbia University. He has taught history of art courses at Columbia and Harvard and currently teaches at Yale.