Dutch Masters: The Age of Rembrandt

Course No. 7180
Professor William Kloss, M.A.
Independent Art Historian
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Course No. 7180
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Course Overview

Holland in the 17th century was home to the most remarkable concentration of artistic talent and accomplishment in modern history. From this tiny land came the great masters Vermeer, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch, and Rembrandt, as well as an abundant assembly of memorable artists.

To this day, these compelling pictures take our breath away-an unrivalled heritage of portraits, still lifes, landscapes, marine paintings, and profoundly observant images of everyday Dutch life that continue to grace museums throughout Europe and America.

Why are our eyes mesmerized by the glistening stream issuing from the pitcher in Vermeer's The Milkmaid? How does our understanding deepen with each moment we spend taking in the revealing details of his Woman Holding a Balance? What are the means that create the self-contained intimacy that glows from de Hooch's A Mother's Duty, or from his Interior with Women Beside a Linen Chest?

We are forever astonished by the inclusive sweep of Rembrandt's art, which encompasses the brooding power of The Mill and the moving immediacy of The Jewish Bride. That unsurpassed image of human devotion was painted with such astonishing bravura that Vincent Van Gogh, sitting spellbound before the painting in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum two centuries later, was impelled to say: "One must have died several times to paint like that."

Learn What Made the Art of Holland so Special

What was it that made Holland so special, that nourished great masters and produced artists like Jan van de Cappelle, Meindert Hobbema, Jacob van Ruisdael, Pieter Saenredam, Gerard ter Borch, Hendrick Terbrugghen, and so many others?

And what of the extraordinary technical ability of Holland's artists? They commanded a realistic technique so descriptive and alive that their work seemed like a transcription of life itself. Many people today think of the Dutch artists as "realists." But is this really true? Were they, instead, the creators of a parallel reality-often preoccupied with concerns of faith and morality, and expressing deeper truths through the familiar realities they were painting?

Dutch Masters: The Age of Rembrandt will introduce you to the art of 17th-century Holland. It traces the development of this renowned, independent school of painting, and the great seafaring nation that produced the new society that would be reflected in that new art. The course concludes with the achievements of Holland's greatest and most versatile genius, Rembrandt, whose range of work-including his remarkable etchings-claims the final seven lectures.

Your introduction to this marvelous world is a visually sumptuous one, as Professor William Kloss-well known to Teaching Company customers from his A History of European Art and Great Artists of the Italian Renaissance-shows you the work of more than 100 artists and guides you through more than 450 masterful paintings.

How Deep Meaning Can Hide in the Tiniest Detail
Painting by painting, you'll see how each artist's technical choices-about composition, lighting, color, or brushstrokes, to name a few-contribute to a work's overall impact and statement. And you'll see how even the smallest detail of content can speak volumes. For instance, the artist may depict a room and include a painting hanging on a wall within that room, and that painting within the painting may have significant meaning. The same may be true of an artist's choice of background props or secondary figures in the painting.

Dutch artists created paintings that offered insights into history and commerce. They created great religious works that not only interpret biblical narratives but address the spiritual conflicts of the period. And they also placed on canvas every facet of daily domestic and social life in "genre" paintings, one of the most characteristic categories of Dutch art.

Whether you're new to art or an experienced museumgoer, Dutch Masters: The Age of Rembrandt is a delight, filled with insights into the explosive inventiveness of Dutch art as it interpreted and reinvented the reality of Holland-the most dynamic nation in 17th-century Europe.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Art and Society in 16th-Century Netherlands
    This lecture outlines the art to be discussed and provides historical background about the Protestant Reformation, Catholic Counter-Reformation, and the beginning of the Eighty Years' War between the Northern Netherlands (Holland) and the Spanish-ruled Southern Netherlands (Flanders). x
  • 2
    The Years of Crisis in the Netherlands
    Political and religious clashes of the 1560s led to the Protestant rebellion and, ultimately, the independence of the northern provinces. This lecture concentrates on the art of this period, especially that of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. x
  • 3
    Art in Haarlem and Utrecht, c. 1530–1625
    We look at two significant art centers and works produced by Cornelis van Haarlem, Hendrik Goltzius, Abraham Bloemaert, and Hendrick Terbrugghen. x
  • 4
    Facing the Truth—Candid Portraits
    Portrait painting becomes prominent in Holland in the 17th century, with citizens of the new Dutch Republic eager to record the features of their families and their national leaders. x
  • 5
    Dutch Portraits, c. 1635–75
    We examine some of the finest Dutch portraitists, including Gerard ter Borch, Jan de Bray, and Bartolomeus van der Helst, and note the 1660s shift in taste that led to greater emphasis on artifice and display of skill. x
  • 6
    Frans Hals—The Early Years
    The first of three lectures on Hals—who in a career spanning more than half a century never left Haarlem—discusses his early single portraits and rare genre paintings from about 1611 to about 1633. x
  • 7
    Frans Hals—Civic Group Portraits
    During the same period covered in the last lecture, Hals painted a famous series of group portraits of the Civic Guard Companies of Haarlem. His vivid, animated compositions and vigorous paint surface contrasted strongly with similar portraits by others. x
  • 8
    Frans Hals—Later Portraits
    As Hals aged, he retained all of his astonishing skill and became more penetrating in his characterizations, seeming never to repeat a pose as he found a new invention, a new insight, for each painting. x
  • 9
    Town and City
    In this first lecture devoted to the most inclusive category of Dutch painting—genre painting, or scenes of everyday life—we focus on paintings of public places in town and city, primarily Haarlem and Amsterdam. x
  • 10
    Daily Life in the Town
    This examination of depictions of the public places—inns, taverns, barber and doctor establishments, shops, even brothels—includes the work of painters Judith Leyster, Adriaen van Ostade, and Job Berckheyde. x
  • 11
    Daily Life in the Home
    In Dutch homes of rich or poor or middle class, artists found plentiful settings for all sorts of scenes. Almost always the works carry deeper meaning than the action suggests to a modern viewer. x
  • 12
    Music and the Studio
    Music and art prove to be important genre subjects. Indeed, music was a preoccupation of Dutch art, with romantic and erotic connotations almost always present in musical subjects. x
  • 13
    Jan Steen—Order and Disorder in Dutch Life
    One of the greatest Dutch genre painters, Jan Steen is best known for subjects that often show boisterous activity, a subject seemingly at odds with Calvinist precepts of an orderly life. x
  • 14
    Pieter de Hooch and Quietude
    The quiet pervading much of the work of Pieter de Hooch presents an introverted style, in marked contrast to the extroverted, "loud" paintings of Jan Steen. x
  • 15
    Art in Delft
    The town of Delft was a crucial locale in Dutch history, commerce, and art. In art it will always be associated with Johannes Vermeer. x
  • 16
    Johannes Vermeer, c. 1655–60
    In the first of three lectures on Vermeer, we look at the unexpected beginnings of this short-lived artist, including some works that particularly display his characteristic and miraculous effects of light and profound silence. x
  • 17
    Johannes Vermeer, c. 1660–65
    Between 1660 and 1665, Vermeer painted subjects common to Dutch genre painting, including music and letter writing, but they are infused with his own aura. x
  • 18
    Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665–70
    This lecture includes discussions of renowned paintings like Girl with a Pearl Earring as well as the camera obscura, a visual tool assumed to have been used by Vermeer and other artists. x
  • 19
    Still-Life Painting, c. 1620–54
    This first lecture on still-life painting, a subject which often conveyed the moral of life's brevity, includes the work of Ambrosius Bosschaert, Pieter Claesz, Jan Davidsz de Heem, and Willem Claesz Heda. x
  • 20
    Still-Life Painting, c. 1652–82
    We conclude our examination of still-life painting with a look at the work of artists Samuel van Hoogstraten, Pieter Anraadt, Willem Kalf, Willem van Aelst, Abraham van Beyeren, and Jan Weenix, and also special categories such as illusionistic art, banquet pieces, and dead game. x
  • 21
    Landscape Painting—The Early Decades
    Dutch artists essentially invented naturalistic landscape painting, producing thousands of views of land and sea, in Holland and abroad. This is the first of seven lectures surveying the subject with examples ranging from Hendrik Goltzius around 1600 to the early work of Salomon van Ruysdael around 1630. x
  • 22
    Landscapes of Jan van Goyen and Rembrandt
    We look at the work of the first great genius of Dutch landscape specialists, Jan van Goyen, and also discover that only eight of Rembrandt's landscapes were paintings (he depicted them more often in drawings and prints). x
  • 23
    Foreign Landscapes
    The Dutch were world traders and colonizers, and their interest in the world beyond Holland was expressed in landscapes by painters who went on foreign missions and by others who traveled alone or with other artists, including Frans Post, Allart van Everdingen, and Jan Both. x
  • 24
    Landscape Painting in the 1640s and 1650s
    During the 1640s and 1650s, landscape painting developed from a tonal style to a more colorful style. We look at examples from the work of artists Salomon van Ruysdael, Aert van der Neer, Albert Cuyp, and Paulus Potter. x
  • 25
    Jacob van Ruisdael
    Unanimously agreed to be the greatest Dutch landscape painter, Jacob van Ruisdael produced potent landscapes that featured a rich blend of precise observation and vivid imagination. x
  • 26
    Dutch Landscape Painting until 1689
    This lecture continues with Ruisdael's painting before continuing with two other prominent landscape painters, Philips de Koninck and Meindert Hobbema. x
  • 27
    Marine Painting
    Marine painting—seascapes, beach scenes, lakes, and rivers—unsurprisingly received its first complete exploration by Dutch artists, who came from a nation that had a great navy and was under constant threat of flooding from the sea. x
  • 28
    The Moral of the Story—History Painting
    Although Dutch art is especially known for its specialties, from portraiture to landscape, many Dutch artists also made history paintings, depicting elevated narrative subjects from the Bible, mythology, and ancient or modern political history. x
  • 29
    The Decoration of the Amsterdam Town Hall
    The Town Hall of Amsterdam, when opened in 1655, was considered one of the grandest and most significant buildings in the country. We look at the art commissioned to adorn it. x
  • 30
    Rembrandt to 1630
    The first of seven lectures on Rembrandt includes details about two of his early self-portraits and two significant history paintings that signaled his lifelong dedication to the subject matter in which he would become pre-eminent. x
  • 31
    Rembrandt in Amsterdam, 1631–34
    This examination of Rembrandt's first years in Amsterdam, to which he moved permanently in 1631, includes Saskia, which may be his first portrait–even a wedding portrait–of Saskia van Uylenburgh, the woman he married in 1634. x
  • 32
    Rembrandt and the Baroque Style
    Although he never left Holland, Rembrandt was acutely aware of the extroverted drama of the Baroque style that characterized much Italian and Flemish painting, and it found a place in his art, especially in the mid-1630s, when he painted some of his most dramatic works. x
  • 33
    Rembrandt's Personal Baroque Style
    In the decade that follows, Rembrandt moved away from apparent emulation and reinterpretation of the European Baroque style toward the full maturity of his thirties and a personal Baroque style with a full range of size, subject, and expression. x
  • 34
    Rembrandt's Etchings
    Rembrandt's technical and expressive command of etching was unequaled. This lecture describes the process and examines a dozen examples from the 1630s to the 1650s. x
  • 35
    Rembrandt in the 1650s
    This lecture looks at portraits and religious paintings infused with the ever-deepening emotion and inwardness of Rembrandt's art that we first saw in several etchings discussed in the previous lecture. x
  • 36
    Rembrandt's Last Years
    This final lecture features some memorable paintings of the last decade of Rembrandt's life. It discusses the fascination Dutch artists showed in creating their seemingly realistic record of the world with a lifelikeness and truthfulness that have made Dutch art of the Golden Age recognized everywhere. x

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  • 36 lectures on 6 DVDs
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What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 208-page printed course guidebook
  • List of works discussed
  • Suggested readings
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Your professor

William Kloss

About Your Professor

William Kloss, M.A.
Independent Art Historian
Professor William Kloss is an independent art historian and scholar who lectures and writes about a wide range of European and American art. He was educated at Oberlin College, where he earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Art History. He continued his postgraduate work on a teaching fellowship at the University of Michigan and was then awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for two years of study in Rome. As Assistant Professor...
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Reviews

Dutch Masters: The Age of Rembrandt is rated 4.9 out of 5 by 63.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enthusiastic Teacher Really informative, but most of all, I am drawn in by the teacher's love of art.
Date published: 2019-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from teaching with joy Great knowledge of the field . Well organized course. The professor enjoys teaching the material.
Date published: 2019-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I've been waiting for the streaming version! I wanted to own this course but didn't want to buy the DVD. Who uses DVDs anymore? FINALLY, you issued the streaming version and I snapped it up! Another Kloss masterpiece. In fact, it could be the best one he's done. Clearly, he loves the Dutch Masters and for good reason.
Date published: 2019-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Teacher Mr. Kloss loves his subject, takes art history seriously, and has an obvious deep regard for artists and their accomplishments. This is essential in a teacher. He does a good job of tying Dutch history tightly together with the lives of its painters, and I appreciated that very much. I have trouble absorbing history without this focus on individual biographies. I learned a lot.
Date published: 2018-09-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspired a trip to the Netherlands I missed a Smithsonian lecture on Rembrandt, so I bought this course instead. I had watched another Great Courses set with Professor Kloss and thought it was very informative. In this course, I really enjoyed learning about the historical background behind the artists and artwork, and learned about artists I had never heard of. After watching 36 lectures, I was inspired to travel to the Netherlands and see Haarlem and the work of Frans Hals in person, as well as many Rembrandts and other Dutch masters. These courses provided both the inspiration for the trip, and great background from which to approach my travels. Thank you Great Courses and Professor Kloss.
Date published: 2018-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dutch Masters: The Age of Rembrandt Really great and informative information. Would recommend to others.
Date published: 2018-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Don't be misled by the professor's low-key delivery. He loves this art and it is a pleasure to hear him savor the historical and psychological aspects of great paintings.
Date published: 2018-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Professor Kloss is beyond wonderful in his breadth of knowledge of art, of history, of culture. He passes on to us not only the view of hundreds of the era's paintings, but the language of describing art, of seeing behind the scene to the references made by certain recurring images (spilled wine, watches, sculls...) the history of specific paintings, the biographical background of these artists.... His elegant presentation and generous descriptions are to appealing, I can't wait to start all over again. This is the third of his series we have watched and I want to see them all.
Date published: 2017-10-23
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