The Rijksmuseum Collection encompasses more than 5,500 paintings. It offers an overview of Dutch painting between the late Middle Ages and the mid- twentieth century. The emphasis lies on the seventeenth century, with masterpieces by Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals, Pieter Saenredam, Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruisdael and many others. But masters from outside the Netherlands , like Rubens and Veronese, are represented as well .
The earliest examples of Dutch painting in the Rijksmuseum Collection are works by medieval masters, such as Geertgen tot Sint Jans, and by Renaissance artists like Lucas van Leyden. Their paintings illustrate biblical and mythological scenes. Also deserving of special attention are the canvasses of the so-called mannerist artists (for example Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem and Hendrick Goltzius), who were inspired by Michelangelo and the Italian Renaissance.
From the seventeenth century on- wards, specific genres became more and more common in Dutch painting. Characteristic of the Dutch artists working during this period, is that they mostly specialized in one ‘type' of painting: Pieter Claesz in still lives, Frans Hals in portraits, Jan van Goyen in Dutch landscapes, Pieter de Hooch and Johannes Vermeer in domestic interiors, Jacob van Ruisdael in cloudy skies. Among those specializing in landscapes, some focused on Italianate landscapes basking in the evening sun; Aelbert Cuyp was one such painter. Rembrandt van Rijn is exceptionally well represented in the Rijksmuseum Collection, with no less than twenty paintings. His Night Watch is an absolute high point of Dutch painting.
Among the eighteenth-century masters represented in the Rijksmuseum Collection are Jacob de Wit (well known for the doors and ceilings he decorated in town and country houses) and Cornelis Troost. The collection of nineteenth-century works includes paintings by the romantic artists Barend Cornelis Koekkoek and Andreas Schelfhout, both of whom specialized in idyllic landscapes. Painters of the Hague School and the Amsterdam School (Jacob and Matthijs Maris, Anton Mauve, Isaac Israels and George Breitner, to name a few) embody the late nineteenth–century, realistic movement in Dutch painting.
Paintings by famous masters from other countries are also included in the Rijksmuseum Collection. Flemish painters like Peter Paul Rubens and the Antwerp portrait painter Anthony van Dijck are particularly well represented. Canvasses by such Italian painters as Carlo Crivelli, Piero di Cosimo, Paulo Veronese, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Jacopo Tintoretto are especially impressive.