The Golden Age of Dutch Painting - Treasures of Rijksmuseum and Holland’s historic cities

Prices from £2,155


1 Oct 2019 - 6 Oct 2019
Duration: 5 nights
Ref: 19HOLL
With: Dr Sophie Oosterwijk


Prices from £2,155
Single Supplement: £300
Deposit: £200

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Image credit: The Frans Hals Museum

The vivid paintings by 17th-century Dutch artists capture the confidence of an enterprising, ambitious, newly created republic. Emerging from Spanish Hapsburg rule in the late 16th century, Holland, the country’s leading province, became the cultural, political and economic centre of the United Provinces, and ultimately a world power. The ports of Rotterdam, The Hague, Haarlem and Delft, but above all Amsterdam, were international hubs from where the Dutch — expert seafarers and skilled mapmakers — developed a far-flung colonial empire and achieved prosperity unsurpassed in the 1600s.

This economic Golden Age was matched by an explosion of creativity in art, which reflected the Dutch Republic’s values, achievements and people. The country’s international merchants, cosmopolitan professionals and civic institutions had an insatiable appetite for particular pictorial subjects. Among the innumerable, technically accomplished but often sedate portraits, works by Rembrandt and Frans Hals stand out for their bravura and psychological intensity.

Genre scenes by Vermeer and de Hooch provide an insight into the daily life of 17th-century citizens of all classes, while still-lives appear to depict their food, tableware and flowers in minute detail, although we should remember that Dutch painters were also masters of illusion. Maritime paintings, landscapes and townscapes reflect the republic’s sources of trade and naval power: the sea and the land reclaimed from it. The masterpieces of Rembrandt and his contemporaries will be the focus of this tour.


Sophie Oosterwijk is a Dutch mediaevalist and art historian. She has lectured at many institutions including Leicester, Manchester and St Andrews. She currently works freelance for the University of Cambridge, the RA, the Arts Society and other organisations. Sophie has published widely on art in the Netherlands.

DAY 1:

We fly from London Heathrow to Amsterdam. Our coach transfers us to the attractive town of Haarlem, capital of the province of North Holland and an important cultural centre. After the Sack of Antwerp in 1576, many artists and craftsmen fled to Holland. Frans Hals and (for a while) Jan Steen made Haarlem their home, while Jacob van Ruisdael was born in the city. Visit the Frans Hals Museum, home to the finest of the painter’s virtuoso portraits, while the Grote Markt and St Bavokerk are testimony to Haarlem’s wealth resulting from trade in textiles and tulip bulbs.

DAY 2:

We spend the day in Amsterdam. At the Rijksmuseum we will study some of the collection’s masterpieces: Rembrandt’s Nightwatch, around which the museum was originally built, is the most treasured of all, while Vermeer’s Milkmaid, the most poetic of all genre paintings, probably comes a close second. After lunch, visit the Rembrandthuis, the artist’s home and studio for twenty years until 1658 after he had been declared insolvent in 1656. The building has been refurbished to reflect life there in Rembrandt’s age. The artist’s etchings and surviving copperplates on display reveal his ingenious pictorial intelligence possibly even more than his oil paintings.

DAY 3:

Gouda has survived the centuries relatively unscathed and still possesses a Gothic town hall and atmospheric almshouses. The 15th/16th century church is famous for its colourful stained-glass windows combining biblical scenes with portraits of patrons in contemporary dress. This afternoon, visit the Mauritshuis at Den Haag, starring Vermeer’s iconic Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch, painted by Carel Fabritius, who died in a dramatic explosion in Delft in 1654. The Mauritshuis is usually open late on Thursdays, and there will be free time after the visit to spend longer in the museum or explore the city, before we return to Haarlem this evening.

DAY 4:

Spend the morning in the evocative town of Delft that inspired its famous resident, Johannes Vermeer, to paint his View of Delft. The gabled red brick houses and courtyards of the town were also depicted in many of Pieter de Hooch’s genre paintings and our walking tour will give you an opportunity to match 17th-century painted views with reality. This tour will include a visit to the Nieuwe Kerk with its famous Baroque monument to William the Silent. In the afternoon visit Rotterdam, one of the world’s largest ports, that was almost completely destroyed in World War II, but the city council decided against reconstructing the city as a replica and instead aimed to create a centre of contemporary architecture. We plan to see the priceless art collection ranging from Bosch and Bruegel to Rembrandt and Fabritius in the city’s Boijmans van Beuningen Museum. (Please note that part of the museum may be closed in 2019 and its collection housed elsewhere in Rotterdam.)

DAY 5:

Leiden was Rembrandt’s birthplace and the newly renovated Lakenhal Museum houses some of his earliest paintings alongside work by other contemporary local artists, such as Gerrit Dou and Frans van Mieris. A walking tour reveals some of the historic buildings in this university town. We drive to the nearby castle and estate of Duivenvoorde to see interiors restored to the period when they were created in 1631 and 1717.

DAY 6:

A second day in Amsterdam includes another guided visit to the Rijksmuseum to see the Mediaeval and Renaissance collections. After some free time, our coach transfers us to Amsterdam Schiphol airport for our return flight to London Heathrow.


Twin/double share: £2155 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £300
Tour without flights cost: £1955
Deposit: £200 per person


  • Return flights with KLM from London Heathrow to Amsterdam
  • Private coach transfers in the Netherlands
  • Five nights’ bed and breakfast in the 4* Amrath Grand Hotel Frans Hal
  • Three dinners
  • Guided visits to all sites listed in the programme
  • Services of the Lecturer and Tour Manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes & gratuities for coach drivers & waiters

Amrath Grand Hotel Frans Hals****

Our accommodation is at the four-star Amrath Grand Hotel Frans Hals situated in the centre of Haarlem and close to main sites. A stained glass roof over the central staircase is a feature in this comfortable, modern hotel, with a bar and room service. The bedrooms have a television, minibar, safe, complimentary internet access, air conditioning, bath robes, hair dryer, tea and coffee making facilities.