Andrew Graham-Dixon – History of Art in the Low Countries
King’s Lynn Guildhall
The popular TV art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon returned to King’s Lynn for the Festival on Wednesday to speak to two sell-out audiences on the history of art in the Low Countries.
The Roman historian Tacitus had described the people of modern-day Holland and Belgium as low life living in a low land. Yet by the 16th century they enjoyed the highest standard of living on the planet.
This was naturally reflected in their art. Think of the Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals or the Night Watch by Rembrandt. But these pictures do not always show what they seem.
Even in Holland life could deal nasty surprises. Hals, Rembrandt, Vermeer – all suffered their own personal “booms and busts” the way that the Low Countries did, either through war and invasion or speculation such as Tulipmania, that ruined thousands. The brilliance of their paintings is their testament to the rise and fall of life.
The other dominant theme in Dutch art is iconoclasm, which began with the overthrow of the Catholic Spanish oppressors and literally swept clean the religious art of the country. Mr Graham-Dixon said that continues to cast a shadow to this day ahnd still influences many artistic movements.
A fascinating evening and one in which the Lynn audience chipped in with some good observations and questions during the Q&A session at the end.