Westermann/Blakely Reflection

I chose an image from Westermann’s book, A Worldly Art, of a view showcasing Dutch landscape. The landscape is beautiful, calm, and peaceful and represents an era of new possibilities, as the Dutch Republic was finally free. Westermann writes in the text shortly following this image that many prints “hint at the city’s newly gained freedom and prosperity, exemplified by its successful bleaching industry” (104). However, I soon found irony in this because though the Dutch Republic was free they still had slaves, who were definitely not free. Blakely would analyze this image in a similar way, discussing the relationship between black and white people in Dutch society. She would analyze how when such images are shown, they portray only the white perspective which is glorified, but in reality there is often a totally different perspective of the hardships of what the black people had to endure during this time period.

The Netherlands have a history of colonialism and racism, and the Dutch public remains having a persistent lack of knowledge on Dutch slavey as they have tended to view it as something that occurred far away, rather than in their own homeland. Because of lack of education on this topic, the topic of slavery seems to them as something not of personal concern, which is inherently problematic.

This image stuck out to me particularly because of the town depicted in the picture. The town at the top of the hill takes up a majority of the image as it almost seems to rule over the rest of the picture. This photograph essentially emphasizes Dutch political power. The image symbolizes the immense amount of power, possibly representing the great amount of power the Dutch held over their slaves.

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3 thoughts on “Westermann/Blakely Reflection

  1. What a interesting out look on the town itself. This first struck me almost in the same way, seeing the town high and mighty, but what does it mean The picture isn’t as beautiful as people think. Ugliness of racism can even make a picture like this, so beautiful, into the nightmare we know it to truly be.

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  2. Nice application of the idea of looking for what’s not visible! Your reading of the hill is particularly interesting–especially in such a flat land! Historical context about what kind of wealth would have built that castle and paid for that painting might further inform a reading of the painting. At those (different) times, what was the Dutch involvement in the slave trade? And what kinds of ideas did Dutch people have about Africans in those moments?

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  3. I like your analysis of the town and its relationship to power. The castle, standing over the river and the wanderers who seem the centerpiece of the paintings, seems to exert power over the ships, the men, and even nature itself. I’m reminded of John Winthrop’s famous phrase “city upon a hill” when looking at it: it is meant to rise above all others, not only as a source of political authority but of moral virtue. Yet, the industry which had brought the Dutch such happiness and prosperity was in direct opposition to that virtuousness, as their success had been earned on the backs of those who they had colonized and enslaved. It is easy to glorify such hypocrisy when the suffering is out of sight.

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