Colored Dutch sky with clouds behind windmill in typical Dutch landscape
© Olha Rohulya via Shutterstock
Category:Dutch Masters

Dutch skies: artistic inspiration

The Netherlands is not exactly known for its nice weather, but it certainly has some gorgeous skies. Look up and be amazed by dancing clouds and dramatic light: a source of inspiration for many famous Dutch painters such as Jacob van Ruisdael.

  • Along the coast and inland: beautiful dancing clouds.
  • Remarkable cloud formations in every province.
  • Colorful sunsets.
Spectacular Dutch clouds sky over field

Dutch history is brimming with world-famous painters – from Rembrandt to Van Gogh and from Vermeer to Van Ruisdael. They have all incorporated the Dutch sky into their artworks at one time or another. Van Ruisdael even developed a completely new painting technique because he used our sky so often in his paintings.

The question is: what’s so special about the Dutch skies that they fascinated entire generations of artists? Some say it’s because all the water in the Netherlands reflected the light against the clouds and created a unique image.

Others say it's because of the watery, gray skies, blurring the harsh contrasts. When the sun breaks through the clouds, it seems as if the landscape is lifted up in that one place.

When is the best time to look at the Dutch sky?

Fiery skies in the Netherlands

The Dutch skies are always a beautiful sight, but at certain times they are truly a sight to behold.

The real question is, when is the best time to marvel at all this beauty? Unfortunately, the answer is as logical as it is annoying: it really depends on the weather. In spring and summer, pretty skies can be found mostly inland, while autumn produces them mostly along the coast because the seawater is warmer than the land at that time.

But there are exceptions to this too. The hills of South Limburg can have some influence on cloud formations. The region produces wavy patterns and the like more often, but that only happens under ideal circumstances.

The expert: Wouter van Bernebeek

  1. Special cloud formations

    In the Netherlands you regularly see unusual patterns in the clouds. All these cloud types have separate names, which often come from other languages (e.g., English). The most special clouds usually occur between the months of April and October. You might see patterns with waves or ripples and the well-known fleecy clouds, as we often see in the Netherlands. Look at the sky every now and then, especially in the afternoon or evening, and you just might spot an interesting cloud formation!
  2. Sunrise and sunset

    Do you want to see very colorful clouds? Then take a look at the sky around sunrise or sunset! With a bit of luck, the low sun will color the clouds orange or red. The sun always rises in the east, so early in the morning you should look east. In the evening you look to the west, where the sun sets. When combined with landscapes, a sunrise or sunset can be extra beautiful!
  3. Spectacular stormy skies

    The most spectacular skies to see in the Netherlands occur during heavy rainfall. The best period for wild cloudy skies during a thunderstorm is in the months of May, June, July and August. This is when we usually have the highest temperatures of the year and rain is fed with that heat, which can make the skies look terrifying at times. If heavy rainfall is predicted, keep an eye on the sky especially during the afternoon or evening. Who knows, you might get lucky and see something very special!

Want to know more about the weather in the Netherlands? Read all about the climate and the seasons, temperatures, hours of sun and precipitation.

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