The Greatest Dutchmen of all time

Rembrandt and Van Gogh

Rembrandt and Van Gogh are names every reader and every visitor of museums knows – their names are so familiar that even the illiterate and the blind will recognize them.

In every history of Dutch art substantial and deserved attention is given to their paintings; sometimes even beyond the point of being reasonable.


By far the most expensive study in art history was the “Rembrandt Research Project,” which tried to establish once and for all the exact size and boundaries of Rembrandt’s oeuvre. The project was so big, that it was said it could be seen from the moon. However, it failed to achieve its aim: art historians continue to quibble over Rembrandt. A former director of the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum used to say that every Dutch student of art history should write his or her doctoral thesis on Rembrandt (although he failed to do so himself).

Van Gogh

A considerable amount of money is spent on researching Van Gogh’s legacy as well. In the most ambitious project ever initiated bythe Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam – the museum which boasts the most visitors of all Dutch museums – more than fifteen years of research have recently been invested in newly publishing the complete correspondence of Vincent Van Gogh, including images of all the works mentioned in the letters.
Both painters are worldwide known to be “Dutch artists.”

That the Dutch public proudly considers them to be Dutch as well, was illustrated when in a public poll in 2004 television viewers were invited to elect “The Greatest Dutchman of all Time”: both Rembrandt and Van Gogh ended in the top ten. Interestingly though, both artists were an exception rather than exemplary when compared to other Dutch painters of their time, which could raise questions as to the nature of their “Dutch” character.

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