Aert van der Neer

Village street by moonlight

Oil on canvas: 25.2(h) x 23.3(w) in /

64.1(h) x 59.1(w) cm

Signed lower right with double monogram: AV DN

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BS 333

 

AERT VAN DER NEER

Gorinchem 1603/4 – 1677 Amsterdam

 

Village street by moonlight

 

Signed lower right with double monogram: AV DN

Oil on canvas: 25 ¼ x 23 ¼ in / 64.1 x 59.1 cm

Frame size: 32 x 30 ½ in / 81.3 x 77.5 cm

 

Painted circa 1655-59

 

Provenance:

John Rushout, 2nd Baron Northwick (1769-1859), Thirlestane House, Cheltenham;

his sale, Phillips at Thirlestane House, 26th July 1859, lot 515 (£44 2s to Gardner);

Cecil Dunn Gardner Collection, by 1881;

Maurice Kann, Paris;

his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris (Maître Lair-Dubreuil), 9th June 1911, lot 34, illus. (FFr. 32,000 to Tulpinck)

Charles Sedelmeyer (seal on the reverse)

Private collection, Europe

 

Literature:

GF Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, London 1854, vol. 3, p.209 (Lord Northwick’s Collection, Thirlestane House)

C Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, vol. VII, London 1923, p.424, no.428 W Schulz, Aert van der Neer, Doornspijk 2002, pp.344-5, no.799, fig. 218

 

 

Born in Gorinchem near Dordrecht, Aert van der Neer had settled in Amsterdam by 1628. His first dated landscape is of 1633, but he only forged his personal style from 1643, specializing in extraordinarily delicate and poetic moonlight, twilight and winter scenes. Although he sometimes painted the Dutch landscape under a glorious summer sun, he seems to have been drawn to complex and ambivalent times of day, captured only through superb tonal control on the part of the artist. Van der Neer’s first known dated winter landscape is of 1642; after 1646 he no longer dates his winter scenes. From around 1660 winter scenes dominated his output.

 

Wolfgang Schulz dates this painting circa 1655-59, an era which he describes as one of ‘outstanding creativity’[1] when van der Neer was perfecting his mature style. When Jacob van Ruisdael moved to Amsterdam in 1657, that city overtook Haarlem as the leading centre for landscape painting. Van der Neer, as the leading specialist in moonlight pieces, enjoyed success in these years. With one exception – a winter scene of 1662 – he dated no works after 1653[2]. Schulz notes that ‘The evening and nocturnal landscapes Aert van der Neer painted around 1655 and in the second half of the fifties are characterised by their beauty in composition, in the depiction of details, and in atmosphere’[3].

 

In Village street by moonlight, the strong diagonal of the street leads the eye far into the distance, to where the clouds are silvered by the moon. Van der Neer captures the numinous moment when the heavens fade from blue to midnight blue and clouds acquire an almost sculptural solidity. The moonlight is filtered through trees, glancing across the pond in the left foreground and shining in the windows of the nearest cottage, defining the whole range of buildings along the street. The artist recreates the experience of objects coming into focus as the viewer’s eyes become accustomed to the twilight. After gazing for a few moments, we are made aware of the complexity of the foreground scene: two gentlemen and a poised, alert dog at the left; a cartwheel and an unhitched cart; a couple strolling companionably along the village street. Van der Neer employs a very subtle range of colours, from the icy blue of the deep heavens, to a rich range of browns, to the silver-gilt of the moonlight, to evoke a peaceful spring night.

 

This painting can be compared to the upright Village street by moonlight, of much the same size and date, in the Musée du Louvre, Paris[4]. It is almost a mirror image of this composition, with the village street running sharply from left to right, although the details are different and the disc of the moon is peeping out from behind a cottage to the right.

 

 

 

Village street by moonlight, c.1655-59. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

 

 

 

Note on the provenance

 

Van der Neer’s work was avidly appreciated from his own day onwards. This painting was in the collection of John Rushout, 2nd Baron Northwick (1769-1859), one of the greatest connoisseurs of the nineteenth century. He owned Northwick Park and in 1838 bought the Greek Revival Thirlestaine House in Cheltenham to house his collection of over five hundred paintings. Members of the public were admitted to enjoy it every afternoon between one and three o’clock. Lord Northwick mixed modern British works by Gainsborough, Bonington, Lawrence, Danby and others with a superb collection of Old Masters. It included paintings by Giotto, da Vinci, Raphael, Dürer, Titian and Caravaggio. Northwick died unmarried and intestate in 1859. His heirs sold Thirlestaine and its contents the same year; the sale took twenty-two days. 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Huskisson, Lord Northwick’s Picture Gallery at Thirlestane House, c.1846.

Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.

AERT VAN DER NEER

Gorinchem 1603/4 – 1677 Amsterdam

 

 

Aert van der Neer was one of the most important European landscape painters of the seventeenth century. He was born in 1604 at Gorinchem (Gorcum), a town on the river Waal east of Dordrecht. He was the son of Egrom van der Neer and Aeltge Jansdr. In his youth Aert was for a short time a steward (majoor) in the service of the lords of Arcel just north of Gorinchem, but by 1628 had settled in Amsterdam. Nothing is known of his early artistic development or training. He is called a painter in 1629, but his first known work dates from 1632. In 1629 van der Neer was living at Herenmarkt near the Brouwersgracht. He married Lijsbeth Govers from Bergen-op-Zoom, who lived in the Warmoesstraat near the Damrak.

 

In his landscapes of the 1630s van der Neer was influenced both by Flemish and the Haarlem school of landscape painting. In 1633 he worked in Amsterdam with Jochem Camphuysen, whose brother Rafael he probably also knew. In 1635 van der Neer painted his first commissioned landscape, of large dimension. Although this was followed by further commissions around 1640, it is only after 1643 that van der Neer found his personal style. He excelled in extraordinary poetic landscapes of sunrise and sunset and is unrivalled as a painter of moonlight in Dutch art. Today, as in the eighteenth century, van der Neer’s winter scenes rank in critical estimation with those of Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634).

 

Van der Neer’s first real evening landscape was the painting of 1643 now in Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha. In the second half of the 1640s he explored the changing effects of light in late evening or at night, reflected in rivers, lakes and marshes. His first really remarkable paintings of this kind are the moonlit river landscape of circa 1646 from the Six Collection, now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and the townscape by moonlight in the Museum Bredius at The Hague. There is a fine comparable riverscape in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt. This phase of van der Neer’s development culminated – after the huge summer landscapes of around 1650 – in small, jewel-like paintings for collectors’ cabinets, which he executed in the 1650s.

 

From 1659 to 1662 van der Neer kept a tavern on the Kalverstraat, while continuing to paint winter landscapes of the highest quality. In December 1662 he was declared bankrupt. He continued to paint, probably until the beginning of the 1670s. In spite of being one of the most outstanding landscapists of the seventeenth century, van der Neer died in poverty in Amsterdam on 9th November 1677. His son Eglon van der Neer (1634-1703) became a successful genre painter while Johannes (Jan) van der Neer (1637/8-1665) followed his father as a landscape painter.

 

The work of Aert van der Neer is represented in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam; the Mauritshuis, The Hague; the National Gallery, London; the Wallace Collection, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Louvre, Paris.

 

 

[1] Schulz, op. cit., p.51.

[2] Ibid., p.53.

[3] Ibid., p.54.

[4] Schulz, p.244, no.457; illus. no.219.

Old MasterAert van der Neer