A solitary man stands in a boat on a river in a rural landscape. The sun has just set, leaving a warm glow and a tranquil atmosphere. The small boats on the riverbank and the ship in the distance suggest the bustle of activity that had taken place on the river earlier in the day. A large ship was originally depicted on the right; it may have been part of a previous picture that the artist then painted over.
The location of the scene has not been identified. Johan Barthold Jongkind was born in Holland, but spend most of his working life in Paris. This picture was probably made in a period when Jongkind was producing paintings of both his native country and his adoptive city.
The sun has just set behind the hill in the distance, and in the remaining light of day a man stands in a boat on the river. He is the only figure in the scene, although some details, such as the boats pulled up on to the riverbank and the ship visible in the distance, suggest that there had been bustle and activity earlier in the day. The location of this tranquil scene has not been identified, although it has previously been referred to as a view of the Seine.
The artist, Johan Barthold Jongkind, has used a reduced colour palette of brown, blue and grey tones, which he highlighted with warm yellow and red tones in the clouds. He was interested in the play between light and colour, which he has skilfully harmonised with the few colours he used. He has created a luminosity in this picture that blends the sky into the water, emphasised by its reflection on the surface. Jongkind was economical in his painting technique: in just a few brushstrokes he was able to create a sense of the mood, season and time of day. Areas of the composition have been covered with thick layers of paint (impasto), which is especially noticeable in the reflection of the sun in the river. There is further impasto in the sky, closest to where the sun has just set, emphasising the intensity of the light. In contrast, other areas have been thinly painted, especially the landscape in the background.
Few details are defined by the artist, including the features of the man on the river and the boats on the bank. This spontaneous, naturalistic style illustrates why Jongkind is considered one of the precursors to the Impressionist movement and why his work influenced the young Impressionists. The likes of Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley became familiar with Jongkind and his work when he moved to Paris from his native Holland and remained there for the majority of his working life. Jongkind’s integration into the early development of the Impressionistic style meant a step away from the influences of his early training. An example of this is the tranquillity of this scene, which contrasts with the stormy, dramatic seascapes depicted by Eugène Isabey, Jongkind’s first teacher, and shows how significantly Jongkind parted from his original influences.
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