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Jan van Goyen, A River Scene, with Fishermen laying a Net

Key facts
Full title A River Scene, with Fishermen laying a Net
Artist Jan van Goyen
Artist dates 1596 - 1656
Date made 1638
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 31.1 × 25.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2580
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A River Scene, with Fishermen laying a Net
Jan van Goyen

Darkened varnish has taken its toll, and the true colours in Jan van Goyen’s painting are difficult to make out. The picture is almost entirely given over to a vast sky, but there’s enough movement below to capture the atmosphere of a busy autumn day on the river.

A series of diagonal lines sweeps across the picture: the net of the fisherman hauling in his catch, the sails of the boats midstream and a tall pole in the distance. A shower threatens from the grey cloud overhead, but a small patch of bright turquoise – the headscarf of a woman hunched up against the chill on board the sailing boat – enlivens the muted palette.

Across the calm waters, a square church tower is just visible. It’s thought to be the tower of the Grote Kerk in Dordrecht, a town van Goyen often depicted in his paintings.

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