Art is interdisciplinary. It is observational and expressive. Whether Vermeer, Rembrandt, or otherwise, art is all encompassing. Golden age painting comprehensively portrayed Dutch society at its height. It was to show how the Dutch were the best among the others. In a similar way, the genius of Dutch city planning exhibits how they were the best at what they did. Aaron Betsky and Adam Eeuwens discuss this in their book, False Flat: Why Dutch Design Is So Good. Dutch design lifts up its designers and architects, and promotes their work to the general populace. Dutch society promotes ideas, both good and bad. This leads to a plurality of unique designs and buildings across the country. Salient examples that come to mind are the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam Noord, and the Rietveld house in Utrecht. Another example of more modern architecture is the ING headquarters in Amsterdam. These ventures are seen in other countries, but the Dutch make an effort to promote varied designs across public and private spaces alike. A great public space that also has a unique design and architecture to it is the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam in downtown Amsterdam. If the government did not allow its people the freedom to create and administer public space and design, they would not be able to produce their best. This allows the Dutch to show their best to the public and the world, similar to how the Dutch masters exhibited their works during the Golden Age. Two of the most famous Golden Age painters are Rembrandt and Vermeer. These two utilized different techniques especially with regard to lighting and perspective. What they had in common was their ability to use what was available to them. Their understanding of Amsterdammers and Netherlanders provided them with a unique perspective which they utilized in their art. An example of great use of perspective is Vermeer’s View of Houses in Delft. Vermeer’s rendition of perspective and the separation of buildings and colors draws the viewer’s eyes to certain points in the painting. Vermeer was able to paint this because of his experience in Delft. He painted a lot of scenes, both interior and exterior in Delft. His understanding of its layout and its houses display how he worked with what was available to him. It also displays how he was innovative for his time, creating an urban landscape of sorts. Vermeer perfected this urban landscape while portraying it realistically. For example, one views the woman working outside with the doors and windows open. It is representative of Delft, and accurate to what it would have been like while he was there. While Rembrandt is often remembered for not being able to pay his debts later in life, he lived like a king while he was at his height. His mastery of his craft allowed him to wield power and influence in the Netherlands art sphere. In his Landscape with a Stone Bridge, he powerfully encompasses the whole landscape using his chiaroschuro technique. While it does not exude the same precision as Vermeer’s paintings, it does contribute to this “seeing is knowing is making” idea. From the details in the trees, to the darkened figures under the bridge, Rembrandt still shows the whole subject area. He is able to bring the painting to life while still exhibiting a muted image. Vermeer shows the image in a different manner, but they both show content and are thorough in their own ways. Betsky and Eeuwens argue different ways of viewing and discerning the value of Dutch infrastructure and design. One of the things they say is “seeing is knowing is making” (206). The Dutch rationally created a world they could understand. This complexity eventually leads the pendulum to swing away from rationalism, but the practicality of the infrastructure lends itself to this seeing and making idea. It also lends itself to perfecting the current reality, instead of making something entirely new. It is true that to innovate, one can no longer create something entirely new, but one must recreate and use what is available to re-engineer the present and create the future. In a different light, the infrastructure of Amsterdam fits into this framework. The Dutch planned the city for carriages, canal boats, and now, bicycles. These bicycles have dictated most of the newer designs as the Dutch seek to modernize their cities and conserve space at the same time. The seeing idea is relevant to this because of how the Dutch view movement. They see it as a very fluid idea. This has lead to most parts of the city and its surrounding areas being accessible by bike (see bike infrastructure links at bottom). This furthers the seeing and knowing idea because it reinforces freedom of movement and accessibility. Furthermore, the liberal social policies that encourage a plethora of different designs also encourages things like improved infrastructure. This too is connected to “seeing is knowing”. This infrastructure ingeniousness has allowed The Netherlands to gain a reputation as one of the most bike friendly countries in the world. It has also allowed the Netherlands to build on its design prowess and create some of the most influential buildings known to man. It has also allowed artists such as Rembrandt and Vermeer to flourish during their respective tenures on this earth. This idea continues to influence the Dutch, and will make its mark on generations to come.
Betsky, Aaron, and Adam Eeuwens. False Flat: Why Dutch Design Is So Good. New York: Phaidon, 2004. Print.