The Dutch economy in the 17th century relied heavily on the country's waterways. The rivers were an important resource for the country's important fishing industry, and shippers used them to transport goods to the different towns and cities. The extremely low horizon gives great prominence to the cloudy sky (it covers five sixths of the picture). Across the calm waters a square church tower can be made out in the distance. It has been suggested that it is the spire of the Grote Kerk in Dordrecht, a town Van Goyen frequently depicted in his paintings. The muted palette of greys and browns is typical for Van Goyen's tonal works of the late 1620s and '30s.
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN