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Oil painting - Moonlight Landscape with River
  • Moonlight Landscape with River
    Neer, Aert van der, born 1603 - died 1677
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Moonlight Landscape with River

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Amsterdam (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    17th century (painted)
    19th century (retouched)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Neer, Aert van der, born 1603 - died 1677 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on oak panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by George Mitchell

  • Museum number:

    347-1878

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Aert van der Neer (1603/04-1677) spent his youth in Arkel near Gorinchem (Gorkum), a town on the river Waal, east of Dordrecht. He moved to Amsterdam in about 1632 and remained there for the rest of his life. He was best known for moonlight landscapes and winter scenes. The chronology of van der Neer's oeuvre is far from easy to determine however his earliest work seems to date from 1642 and the latest from 1665.

This painting which attribution is uncertain could well be an authentic work by Aert van der Neer who had a very large output and was much copied during and after his lifetime. It is however featured in the catalogue raisonné (Wolfgang Schulz, 2002) of the artist as a probable 17th-century imitation. Despite the 19th century retouchings, the overall picture looks like a 17th century work and the naturalistic elements are all very well executed and neat: the foliage in the trees, the vegetation at ground level but also the nets and the figures are very accurate and readable. The entire picture conveys a sense of lightness and freshness that is typical of van der Neer's production. The compositional idea is also recurrent in many other versions of the same subject. Despite its darkness most likely due to a dirty varnish and the actual poor condition of the painting, the play of light and the contrast between light and darkness are typical of van der Neer's mastery in natural effects through a subtle use of an earthy palette that plays with greyish blue and reddish brown tones.

Physical description

An extensive river landscape with figures repairing a net in the foreground and sailing boats with a distant city in the background.

Place of Origin

Amsterdam (probably, painted)

Date

17th century (painted)
19th century (retouched)

Artist/maker

Neer, Aert van der, born 1603 - died 1677 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on oak panel

Dimensions

Height: 32 cm approx., Width: 45 cm approx., :

Object history note

Bequeathed by George Mitchell, 1878

Historical significance: The attribution of this painting is uncertain. Originally acquired as 'attributed to van der Neer' (1893 Catalogue, p. 183), it was subsequently catalogued (1973 Catalogue, p.203) as 'a 17th century painting in the style of van der Neer, considerably repainted in the 19th century', and it is listed as probably a 17th-century imitation in the catalogue raisonné of the artist (Wolfgang Schulz, 2002).

Despite 19th century retouchings, its naturalistic elements including the foliage of the trees, the vegetation, nets and figures, are neat and well executed. The scene conveys a sense of lightness and freshness typical of van der Neer. The composition reappears in many other versions of this subject. Despite the overall darkness, probably due to degraded varnish and generally poor condition of the painting, its contrast between the play of light and areas of shade is typical of van der Neer, whose earthy palette typically plays with greyish blue and reddish brown tones.

Historical context note

Aert van der Neer (1603/04-1677) spent his youth in Arkel, near Gorinchem (Gorkum), a town on the river Waal, east of Dordrecht. Around 1632 he moved to Amsterdam, where he remained for the rest of his life, and had a considerable output. He is best known for moonlight landscapes and winter scenes. The chronology of van der Neer's oeuvre is unclear; his earliest work seems to date from 1642, and the latest from 1665. During the first half of the 1640s, Aert van der Neer and colleagues in Amsterdam and Haarlem developed a new genre of nocturne landscapes. These impressed with their freshness and novelty, and many were produced. He used a restricted palette of earthy colours to represent isolated figures involved in daily activities in expansive landscapes in which a wide sky is generally the source of light. Coloured light is thus typically considered the essential characteristic of Aert van der Neer's style. His work was much imitated during his lifetime, but taste changed in the later 1660s, and he ended his days in poverty.

Nocturnal landscapes appear as an independent genre in Dutch art in the mid 17th century, although some examples existed earlier. At the beginning of the 17th century, the mastery of light and of its atmospheric effects attained by Caravaggio (1571-1610) and Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610) had a great influence on northern painters. Heindrick Goudt engraved night scenes, and such subjects became the speciality of the Dutch engravers such as Jan van de Velde (ca. 1593-1641). Painters including Jan Asselijn, Benjamin Gerritz. Cuyp and Rembrandt excelled in nocturnal subjects, and by the 1640s moonlit landscapes had become a separate genre. Aert van der Neer's moonlit landscapes were much copied and imitated during his life, and during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Descriptive line

Oil Painting, 'Moonlight Landscape with River',style of Aert van der Neer, 17th century retouched 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 202-3, cat. no. 250.
Wolfgang Schulz, Aert van der Neer,, Doornspijk, 2002, p. 234, cat. no. 417.

Materials

Oil paint; Oak

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Boats; Figures; Moonlight; Landscapes (representations); River

Categories

Paintings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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