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The Manner of the Country: Dutch Cityscape Paintings and Urban Citizenship in the Seventeenth Century

  • Author(s): Gurney, Ryan M.
  • Advisor(s): Powell, Amy
  • et al.
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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License
Abstract

This dissertation argues that compositional shifts that appear in Dutch cityscape paintings

depicting Haarlem and Amsterdam between 1650 and 1672 indicate cultural fluctuations that

impacted expressions of urban citizenship. In the decades following the Protestant Reformation

and the eighty-year revolt against Spain, Dutch academics and political reformers proposed a

relationship between city and inhabitant structured around rationality, voluntary collectivism,

and a desire for environmental and existential certainty. Chapter 1 evaluates texts that address

the destabilizing effects of the war with Spain and the necessity to strengthen Dutch culture in its

aftermath. While written at different times between the start of the war in 1568 and the

conclusion of the Stadholderless period in 1672, each of these texts written by various cultural

reformers and critics, from the philologist Justus Lipsius, to the historian Caspar Barlaeus, and

the economist Pieter de la Court, propose a subjective engagement with Dutch cities and their

systems of local government. Chapter 2 maps this trend toward subjective engagements with

cultural and political institutions onto visual depictions of the Dutch cities of Haarlem and

Amsterdam. Prints and then paintings of cities replace distanced compositional views with more

subjective views, where the features of the city are apprehended from fixed and specific

locations, emphasizing each city’s distinctive cultural character. Chapter 3 looks more

specifically at cityscape paintings produced between 1650 and 1672 to argue that painters

produced images responsive to urban residents’ own developing sense of subjective intimacy

with Amsterdam and Haarlem. These images provided a visual vocabulary to the desire for

neostoic order and social collectivism expressed by Lipsius, Barlaeus, and the engineer Simon

Stevin. Chapter 4 considers how these paintings functioned as symbolic objects, arguing that

they were physical expressions of urban citizenship and bourgeois social inclusion for the

resident-collectors who bought and displayed cityscapes in their homes. The concluding chapter

proposes additional topics of consideration, such as a comparison between Dutch and English

pictorial expressions of urban citizenship and the extent to which these expressions were

impacted by the political instability experienced by both cultures during the seventeenth century.

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This item is under embargo until December 8, 2022.