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Two River Scenes

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Both of these pictures are of identical size and seem to have been made to hang side by side. With a pair of paintings, Jan van Goyen could engage viewers in a more complex way than he could with a single picture. There are some striking similarities between the two: the low horizons, the islands or mudflats in the middle ground, the distant buildings, the angle of the navigation markers, the three boats in similar positions. But there are also subtle differences. The two distant churches may be at a similar point on the horizon, but one has a tower and the other a spire. One navigation marker has two balls at the top, the other just one.

Only by careful attention can we decide whether van Goyen has painted two different scenes or the same view at a different state of the tide. Perhaps he was suggesting that, in both landscapes and paintings, the more we look, the more we see.

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