by Theodorus Eko Pramudito
They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder but for a long time mankind has been asking ‘how can we convey the beauty we just saw so that others can also said beauty with their own eyes?’ Art is a complex nearly indefinable yet real aspect of our definition as human and just like life itself, art is also dynamic, ever-changing, striving to the uncharted waters. Awaking from their long slumber of the perspective-lacking, realism-minimal art of the Dark Age, European artists began to dabble in pursuit for new previously unknown paradigm in art. We can thank the Italians for Renaissance but we must celebrate the Dutch for putting art to the new level.
For starter, if one must point the finger towards who is responsible for bringing the world of painting to reach its baroque golden age then Rembrandt is the number one suspect. Rembrandt was one of the prolific painters who put the real in realism. He was the pioneer in utilizing natural mundane phenomenon and delegate said phenomenon to the awe-inspiring pinnacle of transcendence. Look no further from how he redefined the presence of light amidst the darkness of night in his magnum opus, ‘The Night Watch’. Before the invention of camera, Rembrandt had projected what seemed normal view of his era onto canvas while capturing the sense of realism that sends those who gaze at said painting towards time lane not only to Dutch Golden Age but to the daily life of the painter himself. Also let’s not forget his ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee’, contrasting his Night Watch with powerful yet down-to-earth panorama of stormy seas, something that should be familiar to fellow Dutch of Rembrandt’s age during the time of world exploration.
While showering words of praises to Rembrandt for reinventing striking realism of mundane phenomena, let us not forget Hieronymus Bosch for weaving fantastic tales with phantasmagoric imagery through his painting. His famous triptych, ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’, puts him on the same caliber of Rembrandt but whiles his counterpart from Leiden helped us reinvent realism, Bosch helped us realizing our imagination. His paintings are best described as pulled out as the world of dream instead of the material world. His bizarre, surreal, yet highly imaginative pieces can be considered as the precursor of modern art and also emphasized on the concept of unity of objects and living beings due to the organic feel that emanates from his every stroke of brush.
But if I can summarize the greatest contribution of Dutch painters to the world of art is how they made us realize that art is everywhere. From the hard reality of Rembrandt’s daily life to the wildest of Bosch’s inner fantasy, Dutch paintings remain close to our daily life unlike Italian transcendental religious pieces and British royal opulent portraits. They helped us to realize that something simple can still captivate our mind just like life itself.