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Aelbert Cuyp, A River Scene with Distant Windmills

Key facts
Full title A River Scene with Distant Windmills
Artist Aelbert Cuyp
Artist dates 1620 - 1691
Date made about 1640-2
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 35.6 × 52.4 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2545
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A River Scene with Distant Windmills
Aelbert Cuyp

Aelbert Cuyp made this painting when he was aged about 20 or 21 and it shows his early grasp of how to create a sense of distance and evoke the atmosphere of a cloudy day in the Low Countries.

At the time, Cuyp was much influenced by the landscape painter Jan van Goyen. Both artists used a very restricted colour scheme of greys, browns and greens which helps capture the mood of the prevailing weather. But they avoided too much gloominess by setting the horizon very low on the canvas so that the sky dominates, filling the composition with a sense of airiness.

Here, Cuyp showed his talent for other subtle light effects: he used the strongest shades in the foreground, where the water turns almost black, while the brightness in the middle of the painting lifts the atmosphere. The thin strip of land beyond shimmers between water and sky, and the clouds take the eye upwards.

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