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Questions of Dutchness

Svetlana Alpers, 4 August 1994

Dawn of the Golden Age: Northern Netherlandish Art, 1580-1620 
by Wouter Kloek, translated by Michael Hoyle.
Yale, 720 pp., £60, January 1994, 0 300 06016 5
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... Until not so long ago it seemed Fromentin had got it right in 1876 when he celebrated Dutch art as offering a portrait of a new, free state: ‘un Etat nouveau, un art nouveau’, as he put it in Les Maîtres d’ autrefois, an account of his travels through Belgium and Holland. The humanised universe of Italian painting, with its emphasis on an idealised human body – indeed, the very notion of a universal humanity – was replaced, as he saw it and as many have seen it since, by the depiction of a specific and most ordinary visible world: a particular place, its towns, its landscape, its skies, domestic settings, the manners of its people ...

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