What is special about Dutch art?

As a center of trade, the Netherlands has traditionally attracted wealthy art lovers. Dutch artists particularly excelled in the art of painting, starting in Bruges and Ghent in the fifteenth century with Jan van Eyck and other “Flemish Primitives.” Centers of art production later shifted to Brussels (Brueghel), Den Bosch (Hieronymus Bosch), Antwerp (Peter Paul Rubens) and Amsterdam (Rembrandt). A major characteristic of Dutch painting, as compared to Italian painting, is the focus on realism. Whereas Italian painters tended to idealize the world, the Dutch tended to paint the world as it is. Perhaps no other Dutch painter symbolizes this devotion to realism better than Vermeer, who is even claimed to have used technical devices to reproduce reality in its most accurate form. In later centuries, the Netherlands and Belgium remained at the forefront of art production with painters such as Vincent van Gogh, James Ensor, Piet Mondrian, René Magritte, and Karel Appel. Their art work can be admired in world-renowned museums such as the Rijksmuseum and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.

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