Dutch painting in its prime is one of the great achievements in the history of art. Painters described their life and their environment, their country and their city sights so thoroughly that their work seems to provide a nearly complete pictorial record of Dutch culture. This book explores all the aspects of a truly creative period when sureness of instinct and quality of performance held a safe balance. The work of the great masters - including Rembrandt, Hals, Vermeer, Ruisdael - and their impact on others are analyzed and set in the context of a period when government, religion and social structures were all reestablishing themselves after significant changes. Slive discusses the kinds of painting that became Dutch specialities: genre scenes, landscape, marines and still lifes, portraiture and architectural painting, as well as examining patronage, trends in art theory and criticism, and collecting.