by Editor Lourens Durand
The 17th Century marked the Golden Age in Dutch history, after an 80-year war to gain independence from Spain. Amongst many other notable events, painting flourished in the Golden Age – over 5 million paintings were produced in the Netherlands between1600 and 1700 AD. This explosion in the arts was no doubt fuelled by the fact that the new Dutch nobility had discovered that owning paintings was a symbol of power and wealth, and they sought to collect as many paintings as they could to bolster their image.
Dutch artists moved away from portrayal of religious scenes, that had traditionally been hung in churches and monasteries, towards a more realistic still life style that showed off their skill in depicting textures and surfaces in minute detail and with realistic lighting. At this time, the Dutch were known as being excessive feasters with no sense of moderation, and it is no surprise that their still life paintings of food became popular.
Initially, the artworks reflected the gluttony and excesses of the time, with the portrayal of an abundance of food, some of it spilling out of the corners of the frame. Later they became more modest, with dark backgrounds, muted colours and a dominance of brown colours – a feature shared in the works of many fine 1X photographers.
The food-orientated painting tradition in the Netherlands begun by Ambrosius Bosschaert and advanced by Willem Claeszoon Hela of Haarlem, known for his innovation of the breakfast table genre, still a theme in modern photography.
He showed skill and taste in the arrangement and colouring of the objects in his paintings, and later developed a wider palette, away from the dominant browns, which brought more colourful fruits into his work.
The fine work of Hela and other Dutch masters is kept alive by photographic works of modern-day artists of the 1X community.