Woman views painting The endangered swan at Rijksmuseum. Painted by Dutch artist Jan Asselijn ca. 1650
© Daan Steijnen van Eck

Dutch Masters

Global titans of art


Unparalleled mastery

The greats of the world

Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh. Three names that almost everyone, anywhere in the world, recognises. We are understandably proud that all three of these great painters hail from the Netherlands. Our country may be small, but we punch way above our weight when it comes to painting and creative expression. In fact, we’re perhaps one of the biggest players on the world stage.

Visitors view painting Girl with a Pearl Earring part of the Mauritshuis collection

Dutch artists are among the most famous in the world, and museums in the Netherlands and abroad are only too happy when they get the chance to exhibit the iconic masterpieces by these masters. What museum wouldn't want to have Rembrandt's Night Watch in its collection? The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has the honour of housing this great work.

Visitors view painting De Nachtwacht by Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn

Lady looks at paintings in Haarlem Frans Hals Museum

Although there are major museums in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, you can also visit world-famous collections and digital art experiences in various small towns and villages. One such example is Nuenen, where Vincent van Gogh lived and worked for a while. Fans of Johannes Vermeer should definitely visit his charming hometown of Delft.

Our passion for art is reflected throughout the Netherlands. You can see works by Dutch Masters in every province - from Jeroen Bosch in Den Bosch to Frans Hals in Haarlem.

300 the total number of works by Frans Hals

Why are they called Dutch Masters?

The term 'Dutch Masters' was chosen because the name really reflects the greatness and exceptional talent of these artists. It highlights their unparalleled mastery and impact on art history. Although the term 'Old Masters' is also sometimes used, we’ll stick with Dutch Masters.

Portraits Rembrandt De Lakenhal Leiden

The Dutch Masters remain an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Their works are studied, admired and appreciated by art lovers all over the world. They form an invaluable legacy that reminds us of the rich history of Dutch painting and architecture.

Dordrechts Museum Albert Cuyp

Karel Appel (1921 - 2006) was a Dutch painter and sculptor in modern art. He broke through with his membership in the Cobra group. This work is called Sunny Beach Live

And we're not just talking about greats like Rembrandt or Van Gogh. More modern artists such as Karel Appel and M.C. Escher have also left an indelible impression. And don’t forget the De Stijl movement, with well-known names such as Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. Founded in Leiden, De Stijl had a major influence on how art was viewed in the early 20th century.

Day and Night is a woodcut made by the Dutch artist M.C. Escher in 1938

Did you know?

There is also a 17th-century female Dutch Master. You might not have heard of Judith Leyster, but she was highly regarded in her time and was admitted to the Guild of Saint Luke as a female artist.

Dutch Era

Rise of the Dutch Masters


Most Dutch Masters flourished during the Dutch Era in the 17th century, a period of economic prosperity and thriving culture. Their paintings reflect not only the height of artistic achievement of that time but also the social, historical and cultural context. They document the life, landscapes and social structures of the period, giving them invaluable historical and cultural value.

Gentleman looks around in Zeeuws museum De Abdij Middelburg

Portraits, landscapes and still lifes were very popular at this time but the period was also known for 'genre painting'. A good example of this is The Merry Family, a painting by Jan Steen. Part of the Rijksmuseum collection in Amsterdam, it’s a witty depiction of a cluttered and chaotic household and contains numerous symbols and details that indicate irresponsibility and vice. Today, the Dutch expression 'a Jan Steen household' is often used when things are a bit messy.

Jan Steen (1626 - 1679) was a Dutch painter of the 17th century. His work is world famous for his humorous and ironic outlook on life. He is best known for his amusing paintings of a messy and wild household

Immerse yourself in the Dutch Era and visit the Mauritshuis in The Hague. This museum is home to works by greats such as Rembrandt, Jan Steen and Carel Fabritius, but the most famous work in its collection is undoubtedly Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Many painters of the Dutch Era spent time outdoors marvelling at our gorgeous Dutch scenery and turning it into paintings. Also displayed at the Mauritshuis, the View of Delft by Vermeer is a perfect example of landscape painting.

Van Gogh Brabant Van Gogh church in a frame

Van Gogh: the ultimate master?

Van Gogh, the most famous landscape painter in the Netherlands (and perhaps the world), was a Post-Impressionist painter inspired by the landscape and lifestyle of peasants living in provinces such as North Brabant and Drenthe. Many of his works embody the authentic side of everyday life in the Netherlands and many of the locations he painted look practically the same today as they did during his lifetime.

Paining Vincent van Gogh Water mill at Opwetten (1884) Nuenen Brabant

Obviously, fans of Van Gogh have to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, but the stylish Kröller Müller Museum in Apeldoorn is another rather special option for lovers of the great master’s work. Located in lush green surroundings, it is home to the second-largest collection of the Dutch icon’s work in the world. Want another top tip? Go on a small Van Gogh tour in rural Brabant.

Hiker enjoys nature Tilburg

The best place to truly experience the Dutch Masters

Mondrian and De Stijl

Increasingly abstract

Visiting Mondriaan and Rietveld

Painting Victory Boogie Woogie, unfinished painting by Dutch painter Piet Mondriaan. The Boogie Woogie can be seen at the Kunstmuseum Den Haag

The famous Dutch art movement De Stijl originated in 1917. Piet Mondrian was one of the great innovators of this increasingly abstract art form, in which rectangular forms of primary colours were placed against grids of sharp black lines. The idea was to explore ‘a new ideal of harmony and order’. Other well-known names within the movement include Gerrit Rietveld, Theo van Doesburg and Robert van 't Hof.

The Kunstmuseum Den Haag, housed in an Art Deco building designed by famous Dutch architect Berlage, houses the largest collection of Piet Mondrian’s work in the world, including the masterpiece Victory Boogie Woogie. This museum in The Hague also displays works by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and many other artists.

Did you know?

Mondrian was originally not a fan of straight lines and geometric shapes. He started his artistic career as a painter of traditional landscapes.

Fans of Mondrian can also visit his birthplace Amersfoort, where his former home has been turned into a museum. Villa Mondrian, his childhood home, is located in the town of Winterswijk in the eastern Netherlands. And last but not least, Museum Dr8888 in Drachten boasts an extensive collection of De Stijl art and architecture.

Installation at Mondriaanhuis

A new ideal

Red blue chair Gerrit Rietveld

Designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld was another founder of De Stijl who continues to influence modern Dutch design. The Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht is a single-family home, built in 1924 according to the ideals of De Stijl. In terms of design, it is considered one of the most influential residences of the early modern years and, in 2000, was even awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

More of Rietveld's work is exhibited at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, including an example of his iconic Red and Blue Chair. The museum also houses illustrations by Dick Bruna, the creator of Miffy (called Nijntje in the Netherlands). Fans of the beloved children's book can also visit the adorable Miffy Museum, perfect for those travelling with toddlers or pre-schoolers.

1919 the year Rietveld made the Red and Blue Chair


The Hague School and Breitner

An idiosyncratic view

When we talk about the Dutch Masters, we also have to mention two lesser-known movements: The Hague School and The Tachtigers. These were two movements that advanced the Netherlands on the global art stage thanks to their new, idiosyncratic views.
The Hague School was a 19th-century art movement that emphasised a realistic depiction of the Dutch landscape and a true sense of everyday life.

The Tachtigers were an innovative movement within Dutch art. Dutch photographer De Mesquita, captures the Tachtigers Willem Witsen, Willem Kloos, Hein Boeken and Maurits van der Valk. Photo hangs at in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Characteristically, this representation also attempted to mirror the artist's state of mind. Jozef Israëls was one of the leaders of this movement and many of his works can be found in the Kunstmuseum in The Hague and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. In Groningen, Israëls’ hometown, there is a monument in memory of him created by sculptor Abraham Hesselink.

Artists during the Tachtigers movement, were inspired by impressionism. Van Looy painted the canvas outside, in Amsterdam's Pijp district, in a little garden on Rustenburgerstraat. The woman in the background is Van Looy's wife, Titia van Gelder


The Tachtigers were primarily an innovative movement within Dutch literature. But numerous artists and painters also joined this movement, which was mainly a counter-reaction to Romanticism. One of the most famous Tachtigers was George Breitner from Rotterdam who, funnily enough, caused a furore with his portrayal of city life in…Amsterdam.

The Breitner Academy, an art academy located in our capital, focuses on Visual Education and was named after this famous Tachtiger. Perhaps a new Dutch Master will emerge from its doors soon…

The Damrak in Amsterdam is an oil painting by Dutch painter George Hendrik Breitner, painted in 1903. The canvas is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Classroom at Breitner Academy, they teach students all about fine art and design