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A patch of sunlight lights up the thatched roof of an old watermill and the white foam of the turbulent river passing. Allart van Everdingen has made little of the wheel that marks the cottage as a mill – he has concentrated on the mood created by the water and the colours of the surrounding landscape.
Many watermills were being abandoned at this time in Holland; perhaps the artist was suggesting that this one too has outlived its usefulness. The day shown is a chill one, but there’s no smoke coming from the mill’s chimney.
In the 1640s van Everdingen had travelled in Norway and he returned to Haarlem with drawings and sketches of the landscape there, very different to the flat Dutch terrain – waterfalls, mountains and tall, coniferous trees. He turned them into finished landscapes painted in the studio, combining his experience of Norway with objects, such as the mill, that were more typically Dutch.
A patch of sunlight lights up the thatched roof of an old watermill and the white foam of the turbulent river passing its door. Allart van Everdingen has made little of the wheel and posts in the water that mark the cottage as a mill, concentrating on the mood created by the water and the colours of the surrounding landscape. Many watermills were being abandoned at this time in Holland; perhaps the artist was suggesting that this one too has outlived its usefulness. The day shown is a chill one, but there’s no smoke coming from the mill’s chimney.
In spite of the warm tones of the grass, the soil at the side of the water, the trees and even the mill, the painting has a melancholy air. A grey sky seems to promise rain and below the clouds two tall larch trees stand gaunt, bending a little in the wind. The distant hills look barren and lonely, and the high cliffs on the right seem to threaten; only a few sparse trees clinging on to them break their harsh contours.
On the left, the leaves of a young oak tree turn autumnal yellows and oranges in the sun. It frames the picture, seeming to hold the mill in the curve of its slender trunk. Beneath the steep bank on which it stands a few sheep graze, watched over by a woman – almost lost in the layers of varnish that darken the picture – in a blue dress. She sits slumped over, legs apart, perhaps holding something now indefinable in her lap. Her dress and strange red hat seem unconnected with Dutch costume for the time; it may be that they owe something to van Everdingen’s earlier life.
Van Everdingen is also well known as an inspiration for Jacob van Ruisdael, probably the greatest of the seventeenth-century Dutch landscape artists. Ruisdael began to use the Norwegian drawings as a source for his own increasingly turbulent and atmospheric paintings. You will find several in the National Gallery’s collection, including A Landscape with a Waterfall and a Castle on a Hill, in which two tall conifers pierce the clouds in a familiar way, and A Torrent in a Mountainous Landscape, in which a single tree is featured.
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