Five paintings you should see when you are in the Rijksmuseum!

The title is pretty self-explanatory: in this blog you will find a list with five of the most famous and important Dutch paintings.

1.The Night Watch, or the Nachtwacht in Dutch. This is probably the most prominent painting in the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum, after all, is dedicated to Rembrandt van Rijn, the painter of this masterpiece. It depicts the epitome of 17th civil culture: the Night Watch is an group of men that act like a sort of police. Rembrandt was known and celebrated for his ability to paint light and you can see that very clearly in this painting. It is a must-see, especially considering that 2019 is the year of Rembrandt van Rijn.

2.The Milkmaid, or melkmeisje in Dutch is painted by Johannes Vermeer around 1660. It’s subject is what makes it extraordinary and worth seeing: it’s just an ordinary girl. In the 17th century paintings were made for one reason and one reason only: showing off your wealth. The Milkmaid is rich or anything, quite the contrary, yet she is intriguing. She is pouring milk, but it is not for us. That makes you wonder; who is it for? Johannes Vermeer was far ahead of his time and his paintings often depict day-to-day life scenes. He was considered a master of light, like Rembrandt and often played around with it, like in this painting.

3.The Merry Family (het vrolijke huisgezin in Dutch) by Jan Steen is a typical example of the opposite-world-paintings 17th century artist often got involved with. This was because of a cultural change. In the middle ages there were only three estates: clergy, nobility and serfs/farmers. Yet due to the newly acquired wealth a new estate was on the rise: the bourgeoisie. This new group of citizens needed values to life by, as religion had become less important during the Renaissance that also took place in this time. Artists were giving a big role in this: they were to ‘’raise’’ the audience. Jan Steen did this by showing what kind of behaviour isn’t wanted; the peasants are singing and drinking! And in front of their children! How outrageous!

4.Self portrait by Vincent Van Gogh in 1887. This painting represents a turning point in the art style of one of our most famous painters. A year earlier, Vincent had moved to Paris where he started learning the French style of painting. In 1887, because he was short of money and couldn’t afford a model, he tried painting himself in this new style, with stokes of bright colours. The result? I think we all know!

5.Stilleven met bloemen in een vaas, better known in English as Still Life with Flowers in a vase by Hans Bollongier. This painting depicts a vase of mainly tulips, carnations and roses. This is a special painting because of its ‘’date of birth’’. It was made in 1639, two years after the stockmarketcrash in 1637 due to the tulipmania, when people were absolutely wild about tulips and would buy them for ridiculously high prices. This painting refers to that, but with the idea that it really was crazy, as all our earthly belonging will, eventually, vanish when we die (we were strictly protestant at the time, and, as a nation, were very pious)

All of the paintings in the Rijksmuseum are worth seeing. Going to the Rijksmuseum is essentially travelling back in time, as if you were walking through Dutch history. The paintings are like windows that allow you to take a look at our past. When you have the opportunity, the Rijksmuseum is a must visit!

Eline van der Peet