The Old Masters of Art

What does the term Old Master actually mean in terms of art? “In Fine Art, the term Old Master traditionally refers to great European painters practicing during the period roughly 1300-1830”, this definition was given by the Visual Arts Cork. It is a rather woolly phrase, but it suffices to describe our subject matter. The Old Masters are collectively responsible for the earth’s finest art and paintings, and have influenced artists ever since. In this blog we have a look at some of the most influential.


Rembrandt Van Rijn was the finest Dutch painter ever born and was one of the main artists during the 17th century. His clever use of light and shade was the cornerstone of his art. Probably most famous for his self-portraits which he did not shy at showing warts and all. There is some dispute among the academic world just how many self-portraits he actually painted, but it is around the mid-forties in number along with many etchings and drawings. They all show Rembrandt as he was at the time, care lines on his face and not one iota of vanity, they were in all honesty quite brutal.


Another Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer was not accepted in his own lifetime, only once he had passed away was his work finally recognized. Similar to Rembrandt, he was fascinated by light and to capture it accurately in his work. If you study Girl with a Pearl Earring, you will notice how the light plays upon the clothes and different fabrics on show. The glittering bauble, which is the earring, has a beautiful reflection that shines from it. He painted superb scenes with windows, and how the light shines through and reflects back, this art was unique at its time and not really appreciated.


Claude Monet is probably the most famous of all of the Impressionists, our third painter that was fascinated by light. He was brilliant depicting how light could change a landscape, in bold shards of colour slapped on the canvass. He was also really interested in haystacks and made numerous studies of them, these studies would influence later movements of Pop Art and Minimalism.

Gustav Glimt

Possibly the most unique artist in the fact that his favourite method of painting was by using gold leaf. He got the idea by seeing the famous frescoes in Ravenna Italy. His greatest painting was the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer which was nicknamed Austria’s Mona Lisa. This painting was famously stolen by the Nazi’s and the story retold in the film, Woman In Gold.  Although you may not class Glimt as truly an Old Master, his work was so important that he had to be mentioned.

These artists all lived at different times, and their painting styles were very different. They gather together under one banner, Old Masters, as the common thread between them all was that they were all masters of their own art. Using different techniques, colours, and styles they all produced remarkable work that will last forever.