This has long been one of my favorite countries, but these choices are not so tough. For most of the categories I have clear first picks.
1. Painter: We’re talking favorite here. Best goes to Rembrandt, but Mondrian changed my life. For single painting, I opt for Vermeer’s The Art of Painting. The map in the background (do you get the implicit political and indeed pre-Westphalian Catholic message?) blows me away. There is also van Gogh, his best works are the drawings. de Kooning deserves mention, my favorite picture by him is Excavation, which hangs in Chicago.
2. Movie and Director: Paul Verhoeven is the go-to guy, how about The Fourth Man? But all of his are worth seeing, at least up until Hollow Man. Starship Troopers remains one of the most underrated movies; most people didn’t get that it was a critique of militarism and consumer society, all rolled into one. But you can’t make much money attacking your viewers, at least not in Hollywood. Verhoeven aside, The Vanishing is a strong entry. The guy who directed Speed is Dutch as well, I believe.
3. Novel: Harry Mulisch, The Discovery of Heaven. An underrated Continental novel of ideas, full of metaphysical speculation. But for such a literate people, this category is surprisingly thin.
5. Popular music song: "Venus," by The Shocking Blue. Yes they were Dutch, and yes this is better than the later (non-Dutch) remake.
6. Conductor – Willem Mengelberg or Ton Koopman or Bernard Haitink. More generally, the Netherlands has been vital to the Early Music movement.
7. Philosophical odds and ends: Erasmus (an important theorist of self-deception), Grotius (better on property than Locke), and Spinoza (sheer genius) remain worth reading.
8. Female spy: Mata Hari.
Here is a Dutch Celebrities Quiz, see how you do! Hee.