What made art like Cuyp's possible was a radical change in government. In 1555, the seventeen provinces of the Low Countries came under the control of Philip II of Spain. After a long period of protest against Spanish religious bigotry and intolerance, including the Inquisition's attacks on Protestants, inept governmental dictates from the Spanish court combined with high taxes, the seven northern provinces, which were largely Protestant openly rebelled against Spanish rule. Two years later, they declared their independence from Spain and after a long and brutal war, the Dutch finally drove the Spanish out of what is now Holland.
For the new United Provinces, as Holland was then called, the following century would be marked by enormous economic growth fuelled by trade, and by the unprecedented prosperity and cultural flowering known as the Dutch Golden Age.
Wealthy merchants, bankers and other prosperous citizens replaced monarchs, the Catholic church and the aristocracy as patrons and collectors of art. This led to the rise of an open art market. Dutch-art subjects shifted from classical myth, Biblical scenes, and portraits of royalty to still lifes, pictures of everyday life called genre scenes, landscapes, and city scapes rendered with a fresh realism. Paintings tended to be fairly small in size and scale, as they were purchased not for churches or palaces, but for private homes. Subject matter was secular, spanning a range of genres, including portraits, facial studies, town scapes, church interiors, scenes of daily life, home interiors, landscapes and seascapes, and still-lifes. Modesty was a virtue, though it did not preclude national pride.
The art reflected the Dutch interest in their seas, the source of their prosperity, their urban world and their landscape of canals, luminous grey skies and flat fields. The great artists of the seventeenth century were better served with materials than any previous era. Along with it's other mercantile products, the Netherlands had become the major producers for pigments, ranging from white lead to vermilion. The art guilds required a long apprenticeship to obtain mastery in the craft, This meant that those who obtained the title of "master" had a complete knowledge of all aspects of craftsmanship - from making paints to preparing the supports (mostly panels but some of the paintings are on copper and others on linen canvas).