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The Expressive Landscape

Evening Landscape: a Windmill by a Stream©

The dominance of the Calvinist Church within the Dutch Republic led to a limited market for religious art. However, many seventeenth-century Dutch poets described Nature as a means of understanding the power and benevolence of God. Some landscape paintings have a grandeur and intensity of mood which seems intended to convey a similar message.

Jacob van Ruisdael’s landscapes (see no. 11) were based on drawings made outdoors, which he worked up in his studio. Their dramatic mood often suggests a spiritual journey through a dark, cloudy path towards a sunlit distance.

Aelbert Cuyp (nos 39 and 42) carefully constructed poetic fiction out of the land surrounding his native Dordrecht. His paintings also take the form of a contemplative journey, but in comparison with Ruisdael’s threatening skies, Cuyp drenches his scenes with warmth. Despite its matter-of-fact subject, The Passage Boat (no. 39) is symbolically suggestive in its halo of light, stacked-up clouds and cross-shaped masts.

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