Gerson Digital : Germany I


1. German Emigrants in the Northern Netherlands and Dutch Painters Travelling in Germany

Horst Gerson
Annotated by Rieke van Leeuwen

The artistic relationships between the Northern Netherlands and Germany in the 17th century1 are so diverse and active, that we would do well to separate straight away some groups of travelling artists that cannot be considered as agents of Dutch art expansion in the true sense. The first group to consider was composed of German emigrants; artists who left their homeland in their early years and were so absorbed by Dutch art that there is no trace of any German characteristic in their works.2 One can hardly call this process ‘expansion’. This movement testifies to an inner strength of Dutch art, which was capable of completely assimilating foreign elements. Is it not ultimately one and the same power, that both incorporates foreign elements at home and makes the foreign ones submissive to its own Kunstwollen abroad?3

A second group comprises those talented youngsters for whom Germany was only a country to be travelled through on their way to Italy, or those who moved from one place to another to get to know the land and people, to fill their sketchbooks with motifs and, furthermore, cared little for princely commissions. For that matter, we could have swept them under the carpet as being irrelevant to the major investigation of the expansion of Dutch art, were it not that we suspect that a little commission here and there, providing funds for the journey would not have been unwelcome, thereby leaving traces of their activity abroad, that might have borne fruit at some point.

Cover image
Anthonie van Croos
View of the town of Wesel on the Rhine river, with a draughtsman in the foreground
canvas, oil paint 112,3 x 153,6 cm
Christie's (New York City) 2014-01-29 - 2014-01-30, nr. 220


1 [Gerson 1942/1983] Compare the article by C. Hofstede de Groot with the same title (‘Die kunstlerische Beziehungen zwischen Holland und Deutschland im 17. Jahrhundert’): Hofstede de Groot 1920.

2 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Gerson uses the expression ‘Deutschen Geistes’, a remnant of the concept of ‘Geistesgeschichte’. We choose not to translate this expression literally.

3 [Van Leeuwen 2017] There is no equivalent of the term Kunstwollen in other languages. The Austrian art historian Alois Riegl (1858-1905) conceived the Kunstwollen as a historically contingent tendency of an age or a nation to drive stylistic developments without respect to mimetic or technological concerns (Riegl 1893).

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