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This painting shows a romanticised view of peasant life in Oudewater, a small town on the River Ijssel situated between Gouda and Utrecht. Clothes have been hung out to dry in the sunshine, chickens peck at the cobbled street and a man dangles a makeshift fishing rod into the river in the hope of catching something. Koekkoek intended for his pictures to be predominantly picturesque rather than topographically accurate, but he has included some accurate features here. The clock tower that can be seen in the distance is that of the Grote Kerk (Church of St Michael).
Koekkoek specialised in street scenes populated with local people going about their daily lives. He was influenced by seventeenth-century examples of townscapes, including those by the leading painter of the time, Jan van der Heyden (1637–1712).
This painting shows an idealised view of peasant life in Oudewater, a small town on the River Ijssel situated between Gouda and Utrecht. Koekkoek painted several scenes of different areas of the town, and this one gives a view of the lock on the river and a barge loaded with fresh straw. People stroll around or stand and chat, while one man attempts to fish in the river with a makeshift rod. Although the majority of Koekkoek’s scenes are imagined views, he does include topographically accurate details: in this picture he has depicted the clock tower of the Grote Kerk (Church of St Michael).
Koekkoek has paid close attention to the objects, textures and colours of the scene, painting these details with fine brushstrokes, especially in the depiction of the buildings. Sunlight reflects off the windowpanes and a pale wash over the bricks gives the effect of slimy, moss-covered walls. The buildings are large and grand, but the scruffy exteriors suggest they are passed their heyday and have fallen into a state of neglect. In this picture Koekkoek is reminiscing about the former glory and grandeur of Dutch towns and cities, which expanded during the economic prosperity of the seventeenth century. He was inspired by the town and street scenes made by artists of this earlier period, such as Jan van der Heyden, who were keen to depict the developing cities, filled with a sense of civic pride.
The artist has signed his name in the lower left corner of the panel. Born in Amsterdam, Koekkoek came from a family of marine and landscape painters.
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