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Peter Paul Rubens, The Watering Place

Key facts
Full title Peasants with Cattle by a Stream in a Woody Landscape ('The Watering Place')
Artist Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Date made about 1615-22
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 99.4 × 135 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with a contribution from the Art Fund, 1936
Inventory number NG4815
Location Room 34
Collection Main Collection
The Watering Place
Peter Paul Rubens

A young milkmaid with a brass pitcher on her head and a bucket in her hand leads her herd of cattle away for milking. The rising sun reflects in a pool and reaches through the trees to catch the sleek white hides of some of the cows. It’s an idyllic, rustic scene, yet there is energy: people are working and animals moving.

In seventeenth-century Flanders, landscape began to be accepted as a genre of its own instead of as a mere background for narrative paintings or portraits. For Rubens in particular it became a way of celebrating the Flemish countryside he loved. But in England, landscape painting was still neglected, even into the eighteenth century, until artists such as Richard Wilson and Thomas Gainsborough turned their attention to it. The latter saw The Watering Place in London in 1768 and painted a landscape inspired by it in homage to Rubens.

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