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Call for Papers from Dublin for Symposium City Limits: Urban Identity, Specialisation and Autonomy in 17th-Century Dutch Art

The School of Art History and Cultural Policy, University College Dublin and National Gallery of Ireland have announced a symposium on local and urban features in Dutch art, to be held in Dublin on 25 April 2009. The deadline for the call to papers is 1 November 2008.


Seventeenth-century Dutch art has long been recognised as a distinctly urban form of visual expression. Rapidly expanding cities and towns were the main location for artists, patrons, and the market, while much of the subject matter of Dutch art reflects the experiences and aspirations of middle-class urban elites.

It has become commonplace to use urban origins as one of the key criteria in classifying Dutch art. Artists working in close proximity in a common style and with shared iconographic interests are grouped together under such designations as “the Leiden fijnschilders” and “the Utrecht Caravaggisti”. Others have gone further to assign labels to entire communities and coin terms such as “the Haarlem School” or “the Delft style”. Influential surveys of Dutch art, such as Bob Haak’s The Golden Age: Dutch painters of the seventeenth century (1984), have largely focused on major centres of production rather than discussing the exchange of artistic ideas across broader geographical areas.

Likewise, the last two decades have seen many exhibitions that reappraised the art of a single town or city: Enkhuizen (1990), Dordrecht (1992), Rotterdam (1994), Utrecht (1997), Zwolle (1997), The Hague (1998), and Delft (1996 and 2001).

This symposium has three main areas of focus. Firstly, the question of urban self-representation will be addressed. How did individual cities and towns construct a distinct identity through images? What were the processes and motivations involved in attaching certain modes of representation and subject matter to particular urban centres? Secondly, the conference intends to examine the rationale behind local tastes and trends. Why did certain (sub)genres emerge and flourish in a given artistic centre at a specific time, and others did not? The third theme will be the validity of approaching seventeenth-century art through the prism of “local schools”. Are such divisions justifiable given the short distances between the major centres of production in the Dutch Republic? While itinerant artists are known to have adjusted their style and working methods to local tastes, did others not deliberately follow trends from out of town in order to distinguish themselves from their local colleagues?

Confirmed speakers:

  • Professor Eric Jan Sluijter, University of Amsterdam
  • Dr. Walter Liedtke, Curator of European Paintings, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  • Professor Wayne Franits, Syracuse University

Paper Proposal Deadline: Abstracts between 250-500 words are sought for 25-30 minute paper presentations. The deadline for abstracts is 1 November, 2008. Notification of acceptance will be 1 December, 2008. Please send your abstract electronically as a Word-document to either

Dr. John Loughman (UCD School of Art History and Cultural Policy)
Dr. Adriaan Waiboer (National Gallery of Ireland).


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