A Sense of Place: Landscape and Seascape in the Netherlands, 1600–1700
17th-century Netherlanders delighted in depictions of city and country, whether real or imaginary. For citizens of the newly independent Dutch Republic, views of local scenery asserted national pride, while foreign vistas recalled the extent of its overseas commerce. The overwhelming majority of views reflect a human presence, either overt or implied: shepherds, travellers and fisher folk; cultivated fields, buildings, and carefully-maintained trees.
The native Dutch landscape is predominantly low and marshy; much is below sea level, reclaimed behind dikes and drained by pumps. In such a flat environment the sky predominates, and Dutch painters excelled in the evocation of atmospheric effects: moist ocean air, golden sunlight, or clouds shifted by the wind. Pride in the country’s naval prowess and maritime trade is reflected in the proliferation of seascapes, and the extraordinarily accurate depiction of the various ships within them.