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Aert van der Neer, 'A Frozen River near a Village, with Golfers and Skaters', about 1648

Key facts
Full title A Frozen River near a Village, with Golfers and Skaters
Artist Aert van der Neer
Artist dates 1603/4 - 1677
Date made about 1648
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 39.5 × 53 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by John Staniforth Beckett, 1889
Inventory number NG1288
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Frozen River near a Village, with Golfers and Skaters
Aert van der Neer

The game of golf was played in the Middle Ages, but it became particularly popular in seventeenth-century Holland. It was called kolf, and was played on the ice. European winters in the mid-seventeenth century were severe. Rivers and canals froze so solid that the life normally lived in a village moved out onto them.

Van der Neer has shown his villagers at play. The man about to strike the ball with his long club is brightly lit. Perhaps a little chilly in his fashionable clothes, he stands out in his white shirt sleeves and kolfer’s stance. The little village is painted with affectionate detail. Outlines are crisp with a dusting of snow and each branch of the leafless trees is silhouetted against mounting clouds.

Van der Neer imagined his landscape, but would have known the buildings and painted them from drawings. To eke out his existence as an artist he kept an inn, but in spite of his entertaining pictures, he died bankrupt.

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