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Aelbert Jacobsz Cuyp: Landscape painter of unique poetic sensibility

OCTOBER 20, ON THIS DAY

Aelbert Jacobsz Cuyp was a Dutch landscape painter of the Baroque period. He is known for his large views of the Dutch countryside in the early morning or late afternoon light, distinguished for their poetic use of light and atmosphere. His river scenes and seascapes in which the moist atmosphere bathed in soft golden light lends an Arcadian quality to his work. He not only displayed the unifying power of light but also appearances at different times of day in his paintings.

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Aelbert Cuyp was born in Dordrecht, Netherlands, on October 20, 1620. There is not any evidence about his education but it is said that Aelbert Cuyp was most likely taught by his father, the portrait painter Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp. Cuyp\’s evolution may be roughly divided into three stages based on the artists who most inspired him at the time and the subsequent artistic characteristics that are visible in his paintings. Cuyp studied tone from Jan van Goyen, light from Jan Both, and form from his father, Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp.

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The influence of Jan Van Goyen’s style of painting can be noticed in two of his famous paintings, ‘River Scene, Two Men Conversing’ and ‘Hilly Landscape with Cows and Shepherds’. His use of the straw yellow and light brown tones and the broken-brush technique in both paintings is similar to Jan Van Goyen\’s. In 1655, Cuyp produced ‘Young Herdsmen with Cows’, a landscape showing his use of aerial perspective and illusions of vast depth. \’The Mass at Dordrecht,\’ a view of the banks of the Maas and Waal in Dordrecht completed in the early 1650s, is one of Cuyp\’s most renowned paintings. Cuyp\’s paintings frequently depicted the beautiful splendour of Dordrecht which can be seen in his painting \’Dordrecht harbour by moonlight\’ and \’The Maas at Dordrecht in a Storm\’.

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Cuyp is most renowned for his river landscapes and seascapes, which have an Arcadian aspect due to the wet environment bathed in gentle golden light. This golden light frequently captures just the margins and rims of foliage, clouds, or animals, with highlights applied in thick impasto paint. The tone of his paintings is often serene and tranquil, and there is a degree of generality in his representation of specific locations.

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The particular light of a given moment became part of his subject. In his ability to translate specific light effects into the painting, he surpassed his models and created landscape paintings of unique poetic sensibility. During the last 20 years of his life, Cuyp painted little. At the age of 81, he died on 15 November 1691, in Dordrecht. Houbraken recalled that Cuyp was a devout Calvinist and the fact that when he died, there were no paintings of other artists found in his home.

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Sources: 

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aelbert_Cuyp
  2. http://www.browsebiography.com/bio-aelbert_cuyp.html
  3. https://www.thehistoryofart.org/aelbert-cuyp/

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