Room 19

Land and water

Landscape has always played a vital role in painting, but until the 16th century this was almost exclusively as the backdrop for biblical or mythological subjects. It was in 16th-century Flanders that landscape evolved into an independent genre. Flemish immigrant artists introduced these recent developments to the fledgling Dutch Republic. It is thus that a country characterised by an ostensibly uninspiring flat landscape produced some of the greatest landscape painters in Western art.

Recognising the importance of land and water to the country’s considerable wealth, Dutch landscape painters proudly depicted their native surroundings in compositions that look convincing and indeed often find their origin in drawn studies made directly after nature. Most of them, however, were invented in the artist’s studio.

The latter is also evident in the landscapes of the Dutch Italianate painters. Having spent time in Italy, these artists continued to paint sunlit landscapes with Mediterranean motifs after their return to the Republic, influencing others who had never left the country. Some works in this tradition stand out due to their large format and combination of Dutch and Italian motifs.