When you think of the Netherlands, you quickly think of the beautiful colors of the flower bulb fields and tulips. In April and May, the flower bulbs are in bloom in the coastal region between Haarlem and Katwijk. As early as the 17th century, people in Holland started cultivating tulip bulbs on excavated dune soils near Haarlem and Overveen. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths proved to thrive particularly well on this chalky sandy soil. In the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, bulb cultivation expanded to the south and old dunes and dune forests made way for extensive bulb fields. Flower bulbs became an important Dutch export product and the flowering fields grew into an important tourist attraction.

Growing wild over much of the Near East and Central Asia, tulips were cultivated in Constantinople as early as 1055. By the 15th century, tulips were among the most prized flowers; becoming the symbol of the Ottomans. While tulips had probably been cultivated in Persia from the tenth century, they did not come to the attention of the West until the sixteenth century, when Western diplomats to the Ottoman court observed and reported on them. They were rapidly introduced into Europe and became a frenzied commodity during Tulip mania. Tulips were frequently depicted in Dutch Golden Age paintings, and have become associated with the Netherlands, the major producer for world markets, ever since. In the seventeenth century Netherlands, during the time of the Tulip mania, an infection of tulip bulbs by the tulip breaking virus created variegated patterns in the tulip flowers that were much admired and valued.

Source: wikipedia.com

Artists were also attracted by their remarkable color splendor. In the second half of the 19th century, it was the foreign painters who ‘discovered’ the bulb fields as a subject. The French impressionist Claude Monet was one of the first to paint them, while traveling through the Netherlands in 1886.

From the last two decades of the 19th century, many more foreign artists came to our country to capture our bulb fields on canvas. From the 20th century onwards, Dutch painters were also impressed by it. At that time there were dozens of small growers and the activity surrounding floriculture was a wonderful spectacle for painters.
For example, the well-known Dutch flower bulb painter Anton L. Koster (1859-1937) went outside every year from March to early May to make studies which he later elaborated in his studio. He worked in the middle of the bulb fields with a folding chair and a painting box.

Other famous flower bulb painters include George Hitchcock (1850-1913), Ferdinand Hart-Nibbrig (1866-1915), Ben Viegers (1886-1947), Arie Wassenburg (1896-1970), Wilhelm Christiaan Constant Bleckmann (1853-1942) and Niek van der Plas (1954).

Several books have been published about painters of flower bulb fields, such as this recently published book by Wbooks: “The painters of Duin-en Bollenstreek”