A shepherd boy leads a flock of sheep along a country track between two dark banks of trees. Other figures sit in the shadows at the side of the lane. The strongly lit country path contrasts with the darkly massed trees, guiding our eye towards a light, hazy, distant hillside. Dughet has also used the figures and animals to lead us through the landscape.
The artist was one of a number of French painters in seventeenth-century Rome who painted landscape for its own sake, without including a subject from the Bible or classical mythology. In the nineteenth century, it was thought that this landscape was somewhere south-east of Rome, near Lake Albano, where Dughet made sketches. He painted the trees and foliage in intricate detail: different species are conveyed through varying green and brown tones, and the trees subtly merge into one another with lighter coloured brushstrokes overlapping darker ones.
Dughet, brother-in-law of Nicolas Poussin, was one of a number of French painters in seventeenth-century Rome who painted landscape for its own sake, without including a subject drawn from the Bible or classical mythology. The location of this picture has never been identified, but it was thought in the nineteenth century to be somewhere south-east of Rome, near Lake Albano. The artist made sketches in that area and used them in the studio to introduce natural elements into an organised and ideal landscape that was intended to evoke a classical past – even the figures are dressed in classical tunics.
Painted in around 1670, this work dates from late in Dughet’s career. By this time he had perfected the skill of painting trees and foliage in intricate detail. Different tree and plant species are conveyed through varying tones of green and brown, and the trees subtly merge into one another with lighter coloured brushstrokes overlapping darker ones.
Although the picture was admired by many in the nineteenth century for its simple composition it was criticised by the art critic John Ruskin, who thought the canvas was covered ‘with about as much intelligence or feeling of art as a house-painter has in marbling a wainscot, or a weaver in repeating an ornamental pattern.’
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