Willem Maris trained at the Hague Drawing Academy, as did his two older brothers, Jacob and Matthijs, who were also artists. His paintings are of traditional Dutch subjects – particularly animals and landscapes – but painted in a lyrical manner that, in his later work, comes close to French Impressionism. His favourite motifs were cattle, and later ducks and chickens, in meadows or landscapes that typically include willow trees and also ponds, canals and rivers.
In this small painting we see a duck pond near the artist’s home at Voorburg. The sparse foliage and pale sky suggest it is winter or early spring. A mallard in full blue-green head plumage approaches a white duck that is perhaps about to alight on the water. Maris has created an atmospheric scene using a mesh of delicate brushstrokes and by limiting his principal colours to cool grey-greens and olive-browns.
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