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Boudewijn Bakker

Landschap en wereldbeeld

Van Van Eyck tot Rembrandt

From Van Eyck to Rembrandt

Art critics like to emphasise the modern and realist character of the famous Dutch landscape paintings of the seventeenth century. Art historian Boudewijn Bakker explicitly distances himself from this interpretation, drawing attention to the long history and tradition of landscape as a subject in Dutch painting, a history stretching back to Jan van Eyck’s generation of the early fifteenth century. His broad, audacious approach, together with a lucid style and seemingly casual erudition, make this a remarkable and challenging study.

Where did the centuries-old fascination for landscape originate? What was the contemporary significance and purpose of Dutch landscape painting? In Bakker’s view, early Dutch painting can only be understood in the context of the intellectual climate of the day. Rather than seeking answers in the insights offered by humanist art theory, he attempts to chart the traditional Christian view of the world commonly held at the time, which can assist our interpretation of the richly varied landscapes painted by the great masters.

Bakker introduces a diverse collection of thinkers and writers, figures we might not expect to find in a study of art history, such as fifteenth-century monastic scholar Dionysius the Carthusian, sixteenth-century religious reformer John Calvin, geographer Abraham Ortelius and seventeenth-century poet Constantijn Huygens. In their conception of landscape he identifies a world view that goes back to late-Medieval perceptions of God and creation.

It was a manner of thinking in which for instance the colour white, a lamb, the virtue of innocence and the person of Jesus were directly or indirectly connected on a plane higher than that of sensory perception, through mutual allusions that required no further explanation. Similarly, more general concepts such as macrocosm and microcosm, the Bible and nature, word and image, art and model were instinctively seen as interlinked, analogous phenomena.

For late-Medieval contemporaries, the painted landscape - just like the real one - functioned as a store-room of spiritual and moral messages, and according to Bakker this attitude was not confined to the Middle Ages. In fact, painters like Pieter Breugel, Rembrandt van Rijn and Jacob van Ruisdael probably thought far more traditionally than we tend to assume. This has important consequences for the interpretation of their art, which Bakker illustrates in his highly acclaimed final chapter on Rembrandt as a landscape painter.

I regard Landscape and World View by Boudewijn Bakker as one of the most important and stimulating books of recent years in the field of Dutch art. It is clearly the result of extensive reading and original insights and it offers a coherent vision of the painted landscape, boldly overstepping the boundaries of the last several decades of art historical research. Many readers will readily be swept along by Bakker’s argument as well as the elegance of his writing.

Eddy de Jongh, Emiritus Professor at the University of Utrecht

Boudewijn Bakker

Boudewijn Bakker, who works as a researcher at the Amsterdam City Archives, is a recognised expert on the history of landscape in the Dutch Golden Century. He has written several authoritative studies, including a book on Rembrandt’s landscape drawings. He studied history and art history at the…

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Details

Landschap en wereldbeeld. Van Van Eyck tot Rembrandt (2004). Non-fictie, 486 pagina's.
Aantal woorden: 100.000

with illustrations, notes and references

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