A burgher who wanted to buy a picture went to the workshop that turned out the kind he liked. But he was not inquisitive as to which hand of the many at work there had painted the canvas or panel of his choice. Another cause of excellence in the average was the tendency of these painters to strive for perfection within a limited range. Nearly all of them were specialists in one narrowly circumscribed genre.
The genius of Rembrandt could not be restrained within such limited bounds. But he was one of the rare exceptions. Most members of the craft achieved mastery by self-restriction.
In this way each genre was split up in subsidiary genres, each of which had its specialists. The still-life artists can be subdivided into painters of breakfast tables, of fowl, of fish, of venison, of fruit, of flowers; the landscape artists in painters of winter scenes, of river and city views, of woodland, of mountain scenery. Landscape painted for its own sake and not as background to a portrait or a scene of human activity was essentially a Dutch invention.