The King of Kerks

Pieter Jansz. Saenredam (1597 – 1665) was a Dutch Golden Age artist who specialized in painting interiors of churches. He removed all but the architectural details from the interiors of churches and filled these golden hued soaring cathedrals with light and space. His meticulous attention to perspective as well as to the proportions of columns and arches in the interiors of churches evokes symmetry and harmony. With the low vantage point, and with his restrained – almost monochromatic – whitewashed color palette he created an atmosphere that invites contemplation, while capturing the magnificence and timelessness of these Dutch kerks on canvas.  

Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, Interior of the Sint-Odulphuskerk (Assendelft) (1649): Saenredam had a personal relationship with this church: he was born nextdoor and his father was buried in the church. He never sold this painting in his lifetime.
Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, Interior of the Sint-Odulphuskerk (Assendelft) (1649): A closeup of his father’s tombstone.

Saenredam was born on June 9, 1597 to an accomplished engraver and draftsman Jan Pietersz Saenredam. When his father died, Pieter and his mother left his hometown of Assendelft and lived in Haarlem where he first showed interest in architectural paintings – painting his two favorite churches Saint Bavo and Nieuwe Kerk multiple times.

A brief stay in Utrecht – from June 1636 to January 1637 – left a strong impression and was a period of great creativity where he made numerous paintings of Utrecht cathedral and Mariakerk.

He became the most important artist of the genre during the Dutch Golden Age and changed the way churches were painted. Many other Dutch artists tried to evoke the same luminous atmosphere with their paintings of church interiors – but none was ever able to equal his vision.

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