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Aert van der Neer, A Frozen River by a Town at Evening

Key facts
Full title A Frozen River by a Town at Evening
Artist Aert van der Neer
Artist dates 1603/4 - 1677
Date made about 1665
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 26.4 × 40.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG969
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Frozen River by a Town at Evening
Aert van der Neer

From the 1640s to the 1660s the Low Countries experienced a series of severe winters, and canals and rivers froze hard for weeks at a time. This wintry transformation of the towns and landscapes caught the imagination of many local artists, and Aert van der Neer was one of those who specialised in such scenes.

This image of an unknown town is one of dozens of similar landscapes which van der Neer made around this time. Here he seems to have relished evoking the deep ice-green surface of the river as it reflects back a dramatic sky. Dark clouds tinged with the russet from an unseen sunset billow up like smoke from behind the buildings, and high above, dark sweeping brushstrokes suggest a wind is blowing up.

The figures here are types, carefully positioned for effect, rather than representing a snapshot of people at a real moment in time. They seem a rather lonely collection, with lots of single figures scattered about the ice.

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