Art and Culture in the Netherlands (1578-1672)


Credits: 40 credits.

Code: HARTG004.

In this course students are introduced to a range of 'everyday life' imagery produced in the Northern Netherlands during the seventeenth century. Pictures will be discussed within the context of the theoretical and institutional frameworks of seventeenth-century art production (the workshop, the 'market', emergent art theory) as well as in the context of the subsequent history of their evaluation and interpretation (e.g. issues relating to 'dutchness', 'realism', 'hidden meanings', etc.). The varieties and relative prestige of subject matters will be explored in relation to their topicalisation of seventeenth-century social (especially class and gender) issues as manifest in other discourses (advice and wisdom literature, law, natural history, etc.). As well as carrying over into representation (although not always directly) the hierarchies and values of the world it 'imitated', the practice of painting in the seventeenth-century had its own value system. We will pay attention to the appearance of paintings, their surfaces, the routines and conventions of representation, often in the presence of the pictures themselves. The autumn term is given over to developing an acquaintance with the historiography of Dutch painting, reviewing a number of ways of producing meanings, and developing for ourselves methods and terminologies for the analysis and understanding of paintings. In the spring term we work through a number of more focussed, 'case-studies' of individual Dutch genre paintings within the context of several art historical, social historical and other themes. All students are expected to offer presentations in class and take part in discussion. London has extraordinary research resources and students have the opportunity to develop work done in class and in essays in their MA dissertation. The course involves a combination of gallery visits and seminar classes; in most years we have spent a couple of days in the Netherlands during the Spring Term. It is intended that students will emerge acquainted with, and capable of employing, a number of strategies for historical enquiry.

Assessment: two essays totalling 8,000 words.

Course tutor: Charles Ford, History of Art. Further information.

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