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Clara Pieters. Still Life with Flowers and Gold Cups of Honour (detail), 1612. Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. Public Domain.

$220; members $198
(4 classes)

About the Class

The so-called Dutch Golden Age was a period of great upheaval across much of Europe. Warfare and unstable truces were constants during the 17th century, and the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Revival impacted nearly all facets of European society. Scientific advancements and global trade reshaped how people understood their place in the world and in nature. Developments in cartography and optics literally changed how they saw the world. This was also a time of exceptional talent in art history.

In this survey of the painting and graphic arts of the 17th century, we will consider how Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other Dutch artists influenced and were influenced by historical circumstances, religious reforms, nascent national identity, and early colonialism. We will look at this supposed Golden Age of art production, but also at its darker underbelly—poverty, enslaved labor, misogyny, environmental degradation—all aspects of a “non-Golden Age” that deserve our attention when focusing on this period.

The class is online-only. More about online classes.

Barnes classes will:

  • Increase your understanding of art-related concepts.
  • Increase the ways you think critically about art.
  • Improve your ability to communicate about art.
  • Deepen your appreciation for cultures and histories outside your own.

See all classes.


Ashley West

West is an associate professor of Northern Renaissance and Baroque art at Temple University and the vice president of the Historians of Netherlandish Art. She studies intersections between art and the history of science, processes of cultural transmission and the dissemination of knowledge, and opportunities for artistic exchange through print culture, travel and portable objects, pilgrimages, warfare, global trade, and early collecting practices.

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