The glint of light in an eye, breakfast on the table, clouds gathering over fields—Dutch and Flemish master painters transformed everyday scenes into something lasting and beautiful. Step back into early modern Amsterdam with Rembrandt, Vermeer, Judith Leyster, Jacob van Ruisdael and others. Through guided museum visits, seminar discussions and walks among the city’s gabled roofs and shimmering canals, understand how these artists used light, colour and texture to capture their world.
It was a world of innovation and thriving trade, of fortunes built on shipbuilding, fishing, textiles and porcelain. Amsterdam was a cosmopolitan centre infused with a spirit of pluralism, a city populated by communities of Huguenots, Jews, and free Black citizens. Yet it was a world bound to the slave trade and colonial empire. How did Dutch painters see and understand the energy, complexity and contradictions around them?
The 17th century, often called the Golden Age, will be at the centre of our tour. We’ll explore its roots in the Renaissance painters of the court of Burgundy, which included much of the Netherlands and Belgium. The meticulous realism and brilliant colour of Jan van Eyck’s painting parallels the gothic architecture we’ll see in Ghent, Bruges and Brussels. We’ll explore these intricate masterpieces as well as the more visionary, even surreal, painting of Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Hieronymus Bosch. Finally, we’ll follow the thread forward to modern masters, exploring how Rembrandt’s uncompromising realism influenced Vincent van Gogh and how gothic interest in natural forms was echoed by Victor Horta and art nouveau.
The many major exhibits on 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painting in recent years show this art still resonates. What does it say to you? Find out on this Classical Pursuits tour that combines expert guidance with ample free time to enjoy the picturesque streets and squares and multicultural atmosphere of four dynamic northern European cities.
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And here are the artists discussed by Sean in his recent presentation:
Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)