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Aert van der Neer, A River near a Town, by Moonlight

Key facts
Full title A River near a Town, by Moonlight
Artist Aert van der Neer
Artist dates 1603/4 - 1677
Date made about 1645
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 30.3 × 48.4 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Lord Colborne, 1854
Inventory number NG239
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A River near a Town, by Moonlight
Aert van der Neer

Aert van der Neer was one of the most successful specialists in moonlit landscapes, and this is one of many he painted. The moon here has appeared only briefly, breaking through a tiny gap in a cloudy sky. The cool light creates a contrast between the deep darkness in the shadowy outlines of the town and the highlights on the rooftops and gable ends. It reflects dully off the surface of the river and washes over the fields and farmsteads on the opposite bank.

The moon didn’t only provide an interesting way to light up a pleasing view, it also enabled people to keep working and moving. Here several fishing boats are returning to their moorings at the town quay, making the most of the extra visibility. The reddish hues are characteristic of van der Neer’s style; they add a hint of storminess, a dramatic mood which is heightened here by a remarkably turbulent sky.

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