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Aelbert Cuyp, A Herdsman with Five Cows by a River

Key facts
Full title A Herdsman with Five Cows by a River
Artist Aelbert Cuyp
Artist dates 1620 - 1691
Date made about 1650-5
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 45.4 × 74 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1871
Inventory number NG823
Location Room 19
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Herdsman with Five Cows by a River
Aelbert Cuyp

This small, evocative painting shows the work of Aelbert Cuyp at the peak of his maturity as an artist. It’s a picture full of light and reflections, transforming a simple view of a river at evening time into visual harmony.

Light puffy clouds lit by the evening sun drift overhead, leaving patches of shimmering water below that carry almost perfect reflections of boats, animals and distant trees. In a country greatly dependent on its cattle for its wealth, Cuyp has brought these magnificent beasts close to us, giving them as much character as – and much more significance than – the people around them.

Several Dutch artists who had been to Italy painted landscapes full of the soft light of the Mediterranean. Cuyp was probably the most important of the artists to be influenced by their work. He transferred this distinctive light to his Dutch scenes, giving them the soft radiance you see here.

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