Famous Dutch Persons

Holland has produced a number of personalities who have left their mark in history whether it is in the arts or culture, politics, religion, science and technology, military or sports. Here are some of the most notable icons who have come be to known and recognized all over the world.

Vincent van Gogh

Born in Groot-Zundert on March 30, 1853, this post-impressionist artist did not get his due recognition until after his death in 1890. During his lifetime he produced over 2,000 artworks out of which only one was ever sold while he was still alive. Van Gogh was a self-taught artist with little professional training. His famous works include “The Sunflowers,” “The Potato Eaters,” “The Starry Night,” “The Sower,” “Wheat Field with Crows” and his numerous self-portraits. Van Gogh is among the most recognizable and greatest painters in the history of art, influencing a number of modern artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. 

Rembrandt van Rijn

One of the Dutch Masters during the Dutch Golden Age, Rembrandt is considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history. He was born on July 15, 1606 in Leiden and throughout his lifetime produced over 300 paintings, 300 prints or etchings and about 2,000 drawings. He was particularly known for his self-portraits, portraits of his contemporaries and the evident mastery of classical iconography especially in his works with biblical themes or inspirations. His most famous and largest work, “The Night Watch,” is on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Christiaan Huygens

A Dutch mathematician, astronomer, physicist and writer, Huygens made a number of significant contributions to the fields of science and mathematics that we still apply today. He is recognized as the first to use formulae to solve physics problems, thereby making him the first theoretical physicist. He is also known for his wave theory of light, the invention of the pendulum clock, the discovery of Titan - the first of Saturn’s moons and the explanation of Saturn’s rings, the development of modern calculus and the theory of double refraction in optics. It is no surprise then that this prolific genius from The Hague has influenced other great scientists such as Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

Dr. Willem Johan Kolff

He is considered as the “Father of Artificial Organs” and named by LIFE Magazine as one of the 100 Most Important Persons of the 20th Century. In the Netherlands, he was the first to start a blood bank in Europe in the 1940s, developed the first functioning artificial kidney and developed the hemodialysis treatment. When he migrated to the United States, he continued his work in the field of medical science, helping develop the first artificial heart and heart-lung machines used during cardiac surgery.  He died at the ripe age of 98 on February 8, 2009.

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek

Known as the “Father of Microbiology,” Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hailed from Delft, Netherlands and was a tradesman and scientist. He was known for the discovery of the protozoa, the first description and microscopic observation of the red blood cell, muscle fibers and blood flow in capillaries. He is credited for creating over 400 different types of microscopes (of which only nine had survived) and for grinding over 500 optical lenses.

Hella Haasse

Born in Batavia, she is regarded as the “Grand Old Lady of Dutch literature.” She has written several historical novels, essays, autobiographies and short stories. She has won prestigious awards for her writing, including the Constantijn Huygens Prize, the P.C. Hooft Award and the Prize of the Public of the NS. She is also the only writer to have been given the honour to write the annual “Boekenweekgeschenk” thrice (in 1948, 1959 and 1994). The Boekenweekgeschenk” (book week gift) is a book or novella written during the book week and given by book shops as a special memorabilia for buying a book or books in the Dutch language. The book week is a prestigious event in Holland.

Dick Bruna

Dick Bruna is an artist, graphic designer, illustrator and author best known through his cartoon creation, Miffy. This beloved rabbit (Nijntje in Dutch)  is the main character in a series of children’s books, along with other characters he created such as Snuffy the dog, Boris the little boy bear and Poppy the kind pig lady. This prolific children’s book illustrator and writer has over 200 books under his name, along with designing covers and posters for such books as The Saint, James Bond and the detective series “Maigret” by Simenon. In 2006, The Bruna House was opened in the Central Museum in Utrecht.

Rem Koolhaas

Born in Rotterdam on November 17, 1944, Rem Koolhaas is known as a revolutionary architect, architectural theorist and urbanist.  He has won the Pritzker Prize in 2000 and has been named by Time Magazine I 2008 as one of the top 100 of The World’s Most Influential People. Together with Mark Wigley  and Ole Bouman he co-founded and published Volume Magazine. He also established the Office for Metropolitan Architecture and its research-oriented counterpart, AMO. He is credited for the construction of the Seattle Central Library in the US, the Netherlands Embassy in Berlin and Casa da Musica in Porto.

Gerrit Rietveld

He was one of the principal founders of the famous Dutch artistic movement called De Stijl, which revolutionized furniture design and architecture all over the world. This Utrecht native is known for his Red and Blue Chair, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Rietveld Schroder House (said to be the only true De Stijl building in existence) and the Zig-Zag chair (which he completed during his association with the movement Nieuwe Zakelijkheid).

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