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Unit information: How to Live Well: The Art of the Netherlands 1500-1700 in 2021/22

Unit name How to Live Well: The Art of the Netherlands 1500-1700
Unit code HART20030
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Hunt
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History of Art (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Huge political, religious, social, and cultural changes characterise the 16th century Netherlands and the 17th century newly-independent Dutch Republic. The Netherlands became a centre of humanist education, medical and scientific study and geographical exploration. In the new Reformed religious environment, concerns about virtue and morality became increasingly urgent, and questions of civility were of considerable interest in an era of self-fashioning. There was no shortage of advice in the form of courtesy and moralising literature, humanist writings and emblem books, addressed to men and women of all ages. This unit will explore the development of Netherlandish and Dutch art, particularly genre painting and portraiture, against this backdrop. The unit will consider imagery of children, women, soldiers, scholars and citizens, demonstrating both model and transgressive behaviour. Students will examine the theoretical approaches to the art of this period and familiarise themselves with current scholarly debates.

Students will practise their skills in visual analysis in small groups and will work together on a group presentation.

Unit Aims

  • introduce students to a wide range of artists and artworks from 16th and 17th century Netherlands which address moral and religious concerns, and which reflect age, social, religious and gender differences
  • introduce students to a wide range of primary textual sources which inform the social and intellectual context in which the art works have been produced.
  • provide a research led-approach, engaging with recent scholarship which addresses art and the Reformation, the presentation of public and private identities, and other current debates in this field

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

1) demonstrate an understanding of the significance of key themes in the history of art from the early modern Netherlands;

2) describe and analyse the interrelationship between works of art and the social, intellectual, religious and political historical context;

3) reflect critically upon the historiographical debates that surround early modern Netherlandish and Dutch art using a range of textual material, including both secondary and primary source texts;

4) evaluate key vocabulary and theoretical terms relevant to both the historical period and modern scholarship;

5) demonstrate skills in academic writing appropriate to level I;

6) communicate their knowledge effectively through oral presentation appropriate to level I.

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Details

One group presentation (25%) [ILO 6]

One timed assessment (75%) [ILOs 1-5]


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. HART20030).