This painting is one of the greatest 17th-century Dutch landscapes. It is the largest surviving landscape by Cuyp, and arguably the most beautiful. The entire scene is bathed in a gentle sunlight, harmonising all the elements, natural, animal and human. The quality of the light is Italianate. However, Cuyp never travelled to Italy, and he must have acquired this interest from Dutch contemporaries who did, such as Jan Both.

This design is focused more directly on the landscape than in earlier paintings by Cuyp on the same scale, and the figures and animals are more minutely painted. The low sunlit mountains which dominate the peaceful scene are not a feature of the Dutch landscape, but based on mountains seen by Cuyp on his travels in the early 1650s.

According to the painter Benjamin West, it was this picture, acquired by the Earl of Bute in the early 1760s, that began the rage for Cuyp among British collectors in the 18th and 19th centuries. His popularity came to rival that of Claude. Many of his best paintings were imported into Britain and still remain here.

Key facts

Artist
Artist dates
1620 - 1691
Full title
River Landscape with Horseman and Peasants
Date made
about 1658-60
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
123 x 241 cm
Inscription summary
Signed
Acquisition credit
Bought with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and The Art Fund, 1989
Inventory number
NG6522
Location in Gallery