The Golden Age of Dutch art is generally associated with
painters like Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer and Frans
Hals who are typically identified with just one of the
Republic1s provinces: Holland. Less well known is
Utrecht1s Golden Age. Seventeenth-century Utrecht was
the cradle of Dutch art, the centre in which various styles
and themes where developed. The Centraal Museum in
Utrecht therefore invited Dr Albert Blankert to mark his
coming retirement from Utrecht University by organising
a major exhibition on the subject for this summer.
Blankert, who began his career as a curator at the
Centraal Museum in 1962 and subsequently achieved
renown as one of the world1s leading Rembrandt and
Vermeer specialists, chose a selection of key works from
Dutch museum and private collections.
Albert Blankert has assembled the very best work
produced in Utrecht's Golden Age: in all around fifty of
the finest paintings are featured. At least half are from
Dutch museum and private collections, the rest are from
the Centraal Museum itself - home of the world1s largest
collection of Utrecht's Golden Age paintings.
It was the Caravaggists who gave painting in Utrecht in
this period its own unique character. This new,
international style owed its inspiration to the work of
Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
(1571-1610) and exercised a major influence on the
development of seventeenth-century painting.
Rembrandt1s dramatic naturalism, for example, had its
roots in Caravaggism. In fact Caravaggio1s influence
was even more widespread: in addition to artists from
Utrecht, Rome also attracted painters from the rest of
Italy, Spain and France. In Utrecht a local variation of
the style developed, with Dirck van Baburen, Paulus Bor,
Hendrick ter Brugghen and Gerard van Honthorst among
its leading proponents. Because of the virtuosity of his
chiaroscuro (light-dark), Honthorst was known among
contemporaries as 'Gherardo delle Notti'.
In addition to the Caravaggists, the Italianists also
travelled to Italy and drew their inspiration from the
south of Europe. These landscapists lived and worked in
the early half of the seventeenth century, around the
same time as Van Goyen and Ruisdael, and exercised
as great an influence on Dutch landscape art as their -
now more famous - fellow artists. Many of them spent
several years in Italy, cultivating their fascination with
the Italian light and the Mediterranean atmosphere.
Rather than the Dutch countryside, their works feature
the towns, mountains and woods of Italy. Leading
Utrecht Italianists included Cornelis van Poelenburch, Jan
Both and Jan Baptist Weenix.
The exhibition is accompanied by a free booklet
containing Albert Blankert1s descriptions of the various
exhibits as well as an introduction explaining his choice.
Gerard van Honthorst
De koppelaarster / The