High Art of the Low Countries

A captivating cultural journey through the art of the Low Countries

New three part series begins on Saturday 5th September on BBC World News

London, 1 August 2014. From Rembrandt to Rubens, Vermeer to Van Gogh, acclaimed art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon returns to Europe taking us on a cultural journey into the fascinating world of the Low Countries and its rich art history.

Holland and Belgium have produced some of the most celebrated names in art: Van Eyck, Bosch, Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Mondrian and Magritte and as Andrew travels through the region by canal boat and by bicycle he reveals just how important these artists were in key moments in the development of Western culture; the birth of oil painting in the late medieval ages, the triumph of the Dutch golden age, and the onset of polarizing modern art movements surrealism and abstraction.

Episode 1 ‘Dream of Plenty’ will be broadcast on BBC World News on Saturday 6th September 2014 at 02.10, 15.10 and on Sunday 7th September 2014 at 09.10, 20.10 GMT.

Starting his journey at the magnificent altarpiece of Ghent Cathedral created by the Van Eyck brothers, Andrew explains the ground breaking innovation in oil painting and marvels at how the colours they obtained can still remain so vibrant today.

 

Andrew describes how, in the early Renaissance, the most urgent preoccupation was not the advancement of learning, humanist or otherwise, but the Last Judgment. People believed they were living in the end of days; a subject popular with preachers and artists and intensely realised in swarming microscopic detail by Hieronymus Bosch.

 

Episode 2 ‘Boom and Bust’ will be broadcast on BBC World News on Saturday 13th September 2014 at 02.10, 15.10 and on Sunday 14th September 2014 at 09.10, 20.10 GMT.

 

In the second episode of the series, Andrew Graham-Dixon looks at how the seemingly peaceful countries of Holland and Belgium – famous for their tulips and windmills, mussels and chips – were in fact forged in a crucible of conflict and division.

 

He examines how a period of economic boom driven for the first time by a burgeoning and secular middle class led to the Dutch golden age of the 17th century, creating not only the concept of oil painting itself, but the master painters Rembrandt and Vermeer combining art and commerce together as we would recognise it today.

 

Episode 3 ‘Daydreams and Nightmares’ will be broadcast on BBC World News on Saturday 20thSeptember 2014 at 02.10, 15.10 and on Sunday 21st September 2014 at 09.10, 20.10 GMT.

 

Following a brief period of decline, the entrepreneurial and industrious region of the Low Countries rose again to become a cultural leader in the modern age. Despite its small size it produced important forward-thinking artists like Van Gogh, Mondrian, Magritte and Delvaux, who changed the face of art forever.

 

The final part of Andrew’s journey takes him to a remote beach in North West Holland that inspired Mondrian’s transition to his now-renowned abstract grid paintings. Andrew digs deep into the psychology and social history of the region, exploring how the landscape of the past has informed the culture and identity of the Low Countries today and the impossibility of the Dutch drive to turn the philosophy of Mondrian’s geometric order into a way of living.

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