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7 / Domestic Life

Dutch Family in an Interior
Dutch Family in an Interior
Artist / Origin Jan Olis (Dutch, ca.1610–76)
Region: Europe
Date 1634
Material Oil on panel
Medium: Painting
Dimensions H: 15 in. (38.4 cm.), W: 19 ½ in. (49.9 cm.)
Location Ferens Art Gallery, Hull City Museums and Art Galleries, Kingston Upon Hull, UK
Credit Courtesy of Bridgeman Art Library

expert perspective

Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr.Curator of Northern Baroque Painting, National Gallery of Art

Dutch Family in an Interior

» Jan Olis (Dutch, ca.1610–76)

expert perspective

Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. Curator of Northern Baroque Painting, National Gallery of Art

In the late sixteenth century, the Dutch revolted against Spanish control. And it’s a small, little country, the Netherlands, the size of Maryland. And they were against enormous odds because Spain was one of the most powerful countries in the world. And so, with their efforts over the years, the Dutch established their independence in 1648. And there came a sense at that time of enormous pride in who we were, this small little country. They had this sense of a God-given destiny, but one that would only come to fulfillment with their own engagement, and they saw themselves entering into the Golden Age, if they worked hard, worked in concert with God, established a land, created the home, created the moral, ethical environment in which to live, established the trading possibilities, the fleets that would go out to the East Indies and West Indies and bring in wealth. They were very proud of the wealth that they accumulated. You see this in their homes, in the care with which they create a structure within the homes of the living spaces.

There were these emblem books for guidelines as to how one should behave. And the kind of messages that you see in those guides were also followed by the painters. And the same kind of projections of this is the proper way a home should be.

One of the exciting things about Dutch art is that the Dutch lived with their art. Most of the art created in the seventeenth century was for a domestic audience. They weren’t just paintings for wealthy clients. One of the joys of looking at Dutch art is that you feel the real love of what they are depicting. And whether it is an individual or a flower or a vase or a landscape or tiles on the floor, one of the things they want to capture is, in large part, a ghost of this allegorical character of this culture, which is that our being, our essence, our existence here is a God-given gift. And as an artist you want to capture, as much as you possibly can, the character of that gift. And to honor that which God has given you.” 

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