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Unit Overview


This unit focuses on the art of the Dutch Golden Age and early explorations. What were the effects on art and culture of Dutch explorations at home and abroad? How does the work of artists like Rembrandt and Vermeer reflect globalisation? In the seventeenth century, the world was changing rapidly. Since the end of the fifteenth century, it had been mostly the Spanish and Portuguese who set sail to the Americas, Africa and Asia. But when the Dutch entered the scene at the turn of the seventeenth century, they very soon became the most dominant power in the overseas trade. The establishments of permanent trading posts and settlements in Asia, Africa and America not only brought the Dutch in contact with local cultures, they permanently changed them. At the same time, trade with faraway lands brought unknown wealth to the Netherlands. A new class of wealthy merchants developed a taste for paintings, prints, shells, tulips, porcelain, and exotic objects for their new houses. The question is whether the overseas trade, the import of foreign artefacts and the encounter with 'the other' not only profoundly changed Dutch art but also had a lasting effect on the culture and society of the Dutch Republic. In this unit we discuss the encounters with foreign cultures and the impact of cultural exchange, the view of 'the other' (visual ethnography versus exoticism and its racist undercurrents), and the phenomenon of transculturation and globalisation.

This unit is characterised by a hands-on approach, with numerous on and off-campus visits to public and private collections.

6 points
Not available in 2024UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 option in the History of Art major sequence
  • Level 3 elective

Students are able to (1) locate the art of the Dutch Golden Age in the broader historical, cultural and politico-economic context of globalisation; (2) employ key theoretical approaches and sound research skills in regard to the art of the Dutch Golden Age and internationalising trends; (3) engage with debates about the history of globalisation mediated by the art of the Dutch Golden Age; (4) understand the role of art of the Dutch Golden Age in commercial and enterprising interests and of the shifts wrought by global forces in genre, style and techniques unique to the locale; (5) integrate cross-cultural awareness with cogent visual and aesthetic analyses of the artistic contribution made by the Dutch Golden Age; and (6) critically engage with current intellectual inquiry to compose coherent historical and theoretical arguments.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) research proposal; (2) research paper; and (3) oral assessment. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Arvi Wattel
Unit rules
at least one Level 2 unit from the History of Art major sequence
OR MEMS2001 Classical Traditions and Transformations in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
VISA2208 Art of the Reformation VISA3320 Art of the Reformation VISA3361 The Dutch Golden Age and the Art of Exploration
Contact hours
Lectures: 2 hours per week
tutorials: 1 hour per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.