• A Pond in the Forest, 1668. Meindert Hobbema (Dutch, 1638–1709). Oil on wood; 60 x 84.5 cm. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, Mrs. F. F. Prentiss Bequest 1944.52

A Pond in the Forest

A Pond in the Forest was created in the same year that Hobbema got married and essentially stopped painting. Up until 1668, Hobbema’s landscapes were fairly consistent in composition and subject matter. Even though he lived his whole life in the urban city of Amsterdam, he only painted rural landscapes, often including cottages or farms. This work reveals some of the compositional elements that Hobbema used for many of his landscapes. He often used a pathway to encourage the viewer to enter the landscape and alternating zones of light and dark that would emphasize the wide expanses of land.

This appreciation for the land can also be linked to the social and political context of the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. Having gained independence from Spanish rule, the Dutch Republic emerged as an autonomous, capitalist, Protestant nation, a change that greatly affected the artistic output of the region. Not only did landscapes (along with portraiture, genre paintings, and still-life) adhere to the Protestant rejection of religious art, but they also reflected the tastes of the new bourgeois society. Hobbema’s landscape celebrates the land that his fellow countrymen had fought so hard to liberate.

Audio: Alex Vargo, Oberlin College