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Characteristics of Dutch Realism

Sheri Lamb

Dutch Realism art is a 17th century representational painting style that broke a mold of art being connected to the church.

The style was guided largely by Danish political issues and has resurfaced today with a few modifications and enhancements that have gained the interest of critics, exhibition visitors and collectors.


The split between the Roman Catholic and Protestant religions began in Europe during the 1520s. This opened the doors to a less traditional forms of art, as large-scale religious paintings declined in Protestant countries. Roman Catholics responded by attempting to restore the religious art. This was bad timing for the Catholics because of political unrest, due to the Spanish losing their hold of the Netherlands. The popularity of new art grew and eventually led to the secular style of Dutch Realism.


Dutch realism focuses on portraits, real life and landscapes. Country houses and livestock were featured, as these represented the Danish landscape. Much of this art was depicted in oil and precise representational paintings. The composition and sophistication of the reality is a detail of this style that sets it apart. The art was most prevalent from 1648 to 1672. In 1648, Denmark became an independent republic; but in 1672, the country was invaded by France and the Dutch economy collapsed.


The typical Dutch Realist painter lived in the city and had many social and business interactions. He was confident from the training he received during his military service. He proudly displayed his lavishness by dressing in whatever piece of clothing he liked. The painter loves his country, city and neighborhood and spends a lot of time depicting these environments in his work. The typical painter enjoys reading and listening to stories about the fate of ships at sea.

New Dutch Realism

The New Dutch Realism pays tribute to the "Golden Age" of Dutch paintings. It utilizes the discipline of depicting precise composition and details of scenery. The style is evolving with a modern perspective because, unlike traditional Dutch Realism, the new brand incorporates abstract, metaphorical aspects into the representational design. Also, while the traditional form focused on the details of human facial expressions, the contemporary version illustrates the eyes more closely.