Westermann Reflection

View of Nijmegen with the Valkhof by Albert Cuyp

While some landscapes of the seventeenth century emphasized the mythic or biblical, Dutch painters of this period were masters of the realistic landscape, often concentrating on everyday life in their home country. Of course, these paintings of the mundane were by no means lacking in meaning and symbolism. The image above may appear to simply be a painting of a Dutch town and its surroundings, but there is in fact much more to it. The windmill in the background, for instance, was and still is one of the most ubiquitous symbols of the Netherlands. It was created by the Dutch, and with it they drained the water from the land and built much of their country. The canal, boats, and people in the foreground are also unambiguously Dutch, and the town which dominates the painting stands mighty and proud over the landscape. This is an image of the Dutch at their height of power, exhibiting those values held paramount in their culture: productive, stable, peaceful, serene.

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2 thoughts on “Westermann Reflection

  1. I really like this analysis of the painting. Westermann mentions that the Dutch often commissioned paintings that were riddled with symbols, and this is no exception. I like how you mention the windmill far in the background, despite it not catching the viewer’s eye during the first gloss over the painting. Another symbol that jumped out at me was the inclusion of multiple ships in the harbor of the town. This could symbolize the strong naval presence of the Dutch, whilst not necessarily serving as the main subject of this work. Like Jen mentioned, I also noticed it’s very bright!

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  2. This is a great analysis of the painting! As you mention, the scene is peaceful, yet its symbolism is powerful. The windmill in the background demonstrates the Dutch ability to harness nature. Westermann comments on the windmill’s significance as “a specific symbol of Dutch might, independence, and cultural uniqueness” (Westermann 104). In addition to windmills, many Dutch painters incorporated cows into their artwork. Thus, the cows in the front of this painting could be symbolic of national income and pride. Through this painting, it is clear that the Dutch value order and success. I wonder if the Dutch values remain the same today since the people still seem to value planning? Overall, the landscape creates a serene image bolstered by plentiful resources.

    If Blakely were analyzing this image, I think she would remark on the lack of black presence. This painting is a broad portrayal of Dutch culture, so it is not surprising that African influence is not incorporated. Perhaps if we ventured into the depicted village there could have been African influences in the architecture such as “Moor Heads”. While Africans were not always included in the overall picture, they definitely impacted Dutch culture significantly.

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