Windmill Paintings IN Dutch Art

Windmills are an integral part of Dutch history and traditions. There is even a National Windmill Day, celebrated annually in May. All over the country you’ll see mills, decorated with flags and flowers. Long time ago these machines were used solely for industrial purposes, however, not only for making flour out of grain:

  • People pressed oil from seeds there.
  • Trees were turned into planks in saw mills, indispensable for shipbuilding.
  • Pigments for paint were made of grounded chalk and dyes.

The function of mills consisted not just in treatment of raw materials though. During World War II, the oldest remaining mill in the Netherlands (the Zeddan tower mill) was a shelter for locals. On the other hand, it served as a look-out post for the Wehrmacht. Thereby, the role of windmills was significant and affected many aspects of human life.

It’s no wonder that this image appeared on canvas. The paintings of the Golden Age abound with mills. Rising above the city, they symbolize strength and power. The leading Dutch artist of that period was Jacob van Ruisdael (1628-1682). His landscapes of remarkable quality were always in demand. Windmill is a subject of one of his most famous works – ‘Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede’, 1670. The oil painting portrayals a town, situated on the river bank. Ruisdael reproduces exactly the details both of the scenery and of the windmill construction. Also the author plays skillfully with mass and space: though the heavy clouds hang above Wijk bij Duurstede and occupy the larger part of the picture, the windmill remains a key object. It’s not placed in the centre of the work, but still its position is dominating in this very composition, as well as in real life of people in the 17th century. Windmill stands for prosperity and town’s economic development.

Another Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn enjoyed wide popularity. His style was innovative and his greatest achievements in art include portraiture and works on Biblical themes. The windmill painting by Rembrandt, simply called ‘The Mill’ (1645-1648), is emblematic for the Golden Age, when the Netherlands fought against the political supremacy of Spain. If we look at the canvas, we’ll see the results of this war – a ruined but peaceful bastion. Men and women are busy with daily routines: washing clothes, rowing a boat, taking care of children. The silhouette of the mill on the bulwark resembles a guardian who protects the land and the inhabitants. It’s depicted against a calm evening sky which a good sign.

In case if you prefer modern art, you can easily find the example of windmill painting here( The style of Leonid Afremov differs from Ruisdael’s and Rembrandt’s, firstly, because he’s not Dutch and secondly, we’re not in the 17th century! Afremov uses an awesome color palette which leaves a lasting impression on everyone. Don’t resist a temptation to purchase one of the artist’s oil masterpieces and let the mill become your personal symbol of safety!

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