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Landscape has always played a vital role in painting. Until the 16th century this was almost exclusively as the (often imaginary) backdrop for biblical or mythological subjects. It was in 16th-century Flanders that landscape evolved into an independent genre. Flemish immigrant artists introduced these recent developments to the fledgling Dutch Republic. It is thus that a country characterised by an ostensibly uninspiring flat landscape, much of it not even rising above sea level, produced some of the greatest landscape painters in Western art.

The Dutch flat landscapes stand in stark in contrast to the compositions of the so-called Italianate painters, painters who had travelled to Italy in the early 17th century and, after their return, continued to paint landscapes dominated by warm Mediterranean light and motifs. At mid-century, Jan Both initiated a new wave of Italianate landscape painting in Holland. His style was highly influential on a second generation of Dutch Italianate painters such as Nicholaes Berchem and others, some of whom may never have travelled to Italy themselves.