The Dutch have a long tradition of art and design. One of the earliest important Dutch artists was Hieronymus Bosch. His 15th-century religious paintings are full of detail and mystery. In the Golden Century Rembrandt van Rijn and Frans Hals painted portraits filled with light and shadow and Jan Vermeer produced quiet scenes of ordinary life. In the 19th century, Vincent van Gogh painted bold, bright landscapes and portraits. In the 20th century Piet Mondrian created paintings from colourful geometric patterns and M.C. Escher made pictures that are like puzzles. They show flights of stairs that never end and farmers' fields that turn into flying geese.
In the early 20th century, the de Stijl ("The Style") movement in the Netherlands promoted modernism in art and furnishings. Gerrit Rietveld, a Dutch designer, created a famous chair made of straight pieces of wood painted bright colours. Although it was designed in 1917, it looks modern today. Rem Koolhaas is a well-known contemporary Dutch architect who collaborated with Canadian designer Bruce Mau on a book called S,M,L,XL about city life and architecture.

Of the country's many important thinkers, Desiderius Erasmus had the widest influence. He was a 16th-century humanist, a scholar who believed in the dignity and worth of individual people and opposed all forms of superstition and ignorance.

Modern Dutch novelists write about everyday life. Louis Couperus won international praise for The Book of the Small Souls, about Dutch family life in the early 1900s. Simon Vestdijk took a critical look at small-town living in The Garden Where the Brass Band Played. Harry Mulisch wrote a popular parable about war called The Assault. Maria Dermoot conveyed life in colonial Indonesia in Days Before Yesterday. Poetry is also very popular. Popular fiction that has been translated into English includes enjoyable mystery novels set in the Netherlands. Janwillem van der Wetering and Albert Cornelis Baantjer have each published a series of mysteries that convey a sense of modern Dutch life.
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The Dutch love for flowers shows up in many crafts. The popular blue-and-white porcelain called Delftware often has floral decoration. Frisian artists paint flowers onto furniture and tools

Dutch feature films, documentaries and animated short films have won Academy Awards, and the Dutch directors Paul Verhoeven and Jan de Bont have been successful in Hollywood.

Ihe Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam has an international reputation in classical music and the Netherlands Opera Society stages several operas each year. The annual North Sea Jazz Festival, held in The Hague, is one of the largest and most famous jazz festivals in Europe.