The 'golden age' of 17th century Dutch painting that produced such masters as Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Vermeer might actually owe its existence to 16th century painters in Antwerp.
A new exhibition at a museum in Utrecht, the Netherlands, argues that the 'Dutch Masters' owe much of their characteristic style, their shift away from religious themes and toward real life and even their color palettes developed from artists working in Antwerp a century earlier.
At that time, much of what is now the Netherlands was part of Flanders; Antwerp was and still is the trade and commercial center of Flanders, with merchants growing rich on trade in wool, spices and diamonds. Some of that money went into buying art, and painters flourished.
Political and religious issues tipped the balance toward Amsterdam. Most of the area was under Spanish Catholic rule, while most of the area was Protestant. After many revolts, Spain ordered all of Antwerp to convert oor leave, and nearly half the population, including many of the wealthy merchants moved to Amsterdam—along with most of the painters.
The exhibit compares works produced in the two cities and takes special note of painters such as Rembrandt, Hals and Jan Steen whose parents were among those fleeing Antwerp. The exhibition was formally opened by Dutch King Willem-Alexander (above)