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Oil painting - The Ferry: moonlight
  • The Ferry: moonlight
    Neer, Aert van der, born 1603 - died 1677
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The Ferry: moonlight

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Amsterdam (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    1650s (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on oak panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend

  • Museum number:

    1371-1869

  • 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 is a good example of a contemporary imitation of Aert van der Neer's art that was much praised during his lifetime and is featured in the catalogue raisonné (Wolfgang Schulz, 2002) of the artist as a probable 17th-century imitation. Despite the monogram, AVN lower left, which lines look heavier than usual, this painting does not seem to be by Aert van der Neer himself: the tree's foliage is not as accurate as it usually is and the figures are hardly readable. Moreover the silhouette of the city view in the background is not as delineated as it should be. However the play of light, its reflection on water and the distribution of light and darkness are interesting and follow Aert van der Neer's essential characteristics. The sky is the source of light contrasted by dark browns and greyish blue tones with reddish-brown touches that are typical of Aert van der Neer's palette of the 1650s. Aert van der Neer was much imitated during his lifetime although the taste in Amsterdam changed in the second half of the 1660s. His production then decreased and he had further financial difficulties that led him to die in misery.

Physical description

A ferry boat leaving a river bank by moonlight under a cloudy sky, with figures standing on the left river bank and view of a town in the background.

Place of Origin

Amsterdam (probably, painted)

Date

1650s (painted)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

Oil on oak panel

Marks and inscriptions

Monogram 'AVN' lower left

Dimensions

Height: 11 cm estimate, Width: 23.8 cm estimate, :

Object history note

Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend, 1868
Ref : Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860. Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990. p.xix.

'Chauncey Hare Townshend (1798-1868) was born into a wealthy family, only son of Henry Hare Townsend of Busbridge Hall, Godalming, Surrey. Educated at Eton and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA 1821). Succeeded to the family estates 1827, when he added 'h' to the Townsend name. He had taken holy orders, but while he always referred to himself as 'Rev.' on the title pages of his books, he never practised his vocation... . Very much a dilettante in the eighteenth-century sense, he moved in the highest social and literary circles; a great friend of Charles Dickens (he was the dedicatee of Great Expectations) with whom he shared a fascination of mesmerism... Bulwer Lytton described his life's 'Beau-deal of happiness' as 'elegant rest, travel, lots of money - and he is always ill and melancholy'. Of the many watercolours and British and continental oil paintings he bequeathed to the V&A, the majority are landscapes. He is the first identifiable British collector of early photographs apart from the Prince Consort, particularly landscape photography, and also collected gems and geological specimens.'

Historical significance: This work was formerly catalogued as by van der Neer (1893 Catalogue, p. 183). Despite the monogram, 'AVN', lower left, whose lines appear as heavier than usual, it is listed as a 17th century imitation in the catalogue raisonné of Aert van der Neer (Wolfgang Schulz, 2002). The tree's foliage is not as accurate, the figures are hardly readable and the silhouette of the city in the background is not as delineated as is usual in the artist's authentic work. However the play of light, its reflection on the water, and the distribution of light and darkness correspond with Aert van der Neer's essential characteristics. The dark browns and greyish blue tones, with reddish-brown touches, are also typical of his palette of the 1650s.

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, 'The Ferry: Moonlight', ascribed to Aert van der Neer, 17th century

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

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 202, cat. no. 249.
Christopher Wright, Dutch Painting in the Seventeenth Century: Images of a Golden Age in Briutish Collections, London, 1989, p. 225.
Wolfgang Schulz, Aert van der Neer, Doornspijk, 2002, p. 234, cat. no. 416.
A catalogue of the National Gallery of British Art at South Kensington with a supplement containing works by modern foreign artists and Old Masters, 1893, p. 183.

Production Note

Originally catalogued as by van der Neer, it has been catalogued as by a contemporary imitator in 2002 Catalogue raisonné.

Materials

Oil paint; Oak

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Moonlight; Landscapes (representations); Ferries

Categories

Paintings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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