When we attempt to give a summary analysis of the nature and extent of the Dutch influence on German art in the 18th century,275 it is important to point out the negative: in most cases we cannot prove a connection between the Dutch artists that worked in Germany in the 17th century and the German artists working in the Dutch way in the 18th century. An illustrative example is the group of Dutch portrait painters working at the court of Brandenburg during the reign of the Great Elector. What did people still know about them in the 18th century? Was their style in any way formative for artists in the next century? We just have to take a look at the art collection of Friedrich II von Preußen to recognize the total departure from any Dutch conception. And this case is indicative for all courtly art in the 18th century.
Or another observation: Germany had produced a fair amount of Rembrandt pupils, more than any other country. Most of them returned home ̶ Govaert Flinck is an exception ̶ to work in Rembrandt’s style for a while. We recall German artists Jürgen Ovens, Michael Willmann, Christopher Paudiss, Joachim von Sandrart, Johann Ulrich Mayr, as well as the Dutchman Samuel van Hoogstraten. At a pinch, we might add Jacob Weyer, Johann Philipp Lemke and Matthias Scheits, not to speak of smaller talents. Their work did not bear fruit.
On the other hand, if one points to the numerous ‘Rembrandtists’ of the 18th century, the Zicks, Dietrich, Trautmann or whatever their names may be, then this revival of Rembrandt in the 18th century is a manifestation that is in no way connected to the activity of the German pupils of Rembrandt. On the contrary, it shows that the Rembrandt pupils of the 17th century transmitted his late style, while their German successors fell back on the early paintings of the master. Moreover, the chronological links are missing and the artistic centers in the 17th and 18th century do not coincide.
The Dutch element in German art of the 18th century can best be understood as a rediscovery of the ´fanciful Rembrandt´ and as an embracing of the forms of Dutch realism, that came near their own stylistic developments.276
275 [Gerson 1942/1983] Compare the summary in Feulner 1929, p. 164, 167, 195, 206, 217.
276 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Gerson used the word ‘Stilwollen’, between quotation marks. This is a wordplay with ‘Kunstwollen’, a term that does not have equivalents in other languages. On this term: Gerson/Van Leeuwen et al. 2017-2018, § 1, note 1.