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Follower of Isack van Ostade, An Inn by a Frozen River

Key facts
Full title An Inn by a Frozen River
Artist Follower of Isack van Ostade
Artist dates 1621 - 1649
Date made about 1640s
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 41.6 × 55.7 cm
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG963
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
An Inn by a Frozen River
Follower of Isack van Ostade

In the Dutch Republic at this time, paintings were a means of entertainment – scenes of outdoor life were meant to hold moments of interest that had to be teased out. Although it’s not immediately evident, this picture does exactly that.

The huge expanse of sky is grey; the pub roof is almost falling in; the tree raises stark, bare branches; and a white horse hangs its head under a threadbare blanket. But in among the greyness there are warmer colours and moments of relief. At one side of the snow-filled sky is a tinge of pink: the sun isn't far away. Winter flowering plants bloom in the thatch of the dilapidated inn.

The picture was once thought to be by Isack van Ostade, a skilled Haarlem artist who died young. When it was cleaned, it was discovered to be inferior to his work – the painting is rough, with faces little more than a couple of brushstrokes. It was probably done by a follower.

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