Oil on wood
Framed: 33.5 x 33.5 x 3.5 cm (13 3/16 x 13 3/16 x 1 3/8 in.); Diameter: 17.7 cm (6 15/16 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1982.128
Prior to the early 1600s, Dutch artists typically painted landscapes as idealized or artificial backdrops to decorate the more important religious or mythological narratives they included. A revolution in landscape painting occurred in Haarlem in the 1610s when artists like Esaias van de Velde started to paint the humble and everyday subjects of the land and people of the Netherlands in convincingly naturalistic detail.
The riverview was a subject that van de Velde developed in the 1620s. While the water is subordinate to the other elements, its stillness reinforces the serenity of the environment, as do the figures and ruins that exist in in harmony with the natural world. Although van de Velde would have made sketches outdoors, the painting itself was not a copy of these sketches. Rather, as was the common practice, van de Velde would carefully construct paintings in his studio, using a combination of sketches and memories as his inspiration. For its owner, this picture would have satisfied an urban patron's nostalgia for the humble countryside, particularly in light of the rapid urbanization of Dutch society after their independence from Spain in 1609.
--Hannah Segrave (June 2013)
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