Tag Archives: dogs in Dutch painting

Amsterdam: Canals, Bikes, Tulips and Dogs

Amsterdam is beautiful in any season, but the long days of spring add to the enjoyment. The light on the canals is particularly beautiful in early morning and evening.

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Bikes comprise about 40% of the traffic in the city.  And of course bikes make fashion statements all their own.


Tulips are everywhere.


And paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, in the 1600s, are replete with the family pets beloved then, as now.


For some reason, dogs occupy a very special place in Dutch painting.  I guess they were a big part of the good life in the heyday of Amsterdam, when trading made its citizens some of the richest and most contented people in the world.  The city today, at least the parts that tourists see, seems equally fun-loving and prosperous, if a lot more egalitarian.

Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!

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Dogs in Dutch Art

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Dogs are everywhere in Dutch museums.  As I wandered through the art galleries of Amsterdam, I wondered why dogs appear in so many paintings, especially those dating from the Golden Age.  All though the 1600s, the Dutch Republic was pretty much on top of the world.  Merchants and seamen traded all over the world, bringing in boatloads of money.  A wealthy middle class rose up. There was still a market for religious and historical art, but above all this new wealthy class  wanted portraits and depictions of their everyday lives of luxury.  Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and many other artists were happy to oblige. My guess is that man’s best friend was just part of the good life.

I came across a wonderful poem by David Graham:

The Dogs in Dutch Paintings

How shall I not love them, snoozing

right through the Annunciation?  They inhabit

the outskirts of every importance, sprawl

dead center in each oblivious household.

They’re digging at fleas or snapping at scraps,

dozing with noble abandon while a boy

bells their tails.  Often they present their rumps

in the foreground of some martyrdom.

What Christ could lean so unconcernedly

against a table leg, the feast above continuing?

Could the Virgin in her joy match this grace

as a hound sagely ponders an upturned turtle?

No scholar at his huge book will capture

my eye so well as the skinny haunches,

the frazzled tails and serene optimism

of the least of these mutts, curled

in the corners of the world’s dazzlement.

The poet’s website is at davidgraham.lifeyo.com.

I’m counting my discovery of this poet as one of the world’s dazzlements!