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The panoramic views of 17th-century Dutch landscape painting differ fundamentally from the ‘world landscapes’ of earlier Flemish art by seemingly recording a momentary observation of local topography. But despite their impression of spontaneity, these compositions were invented in the artist’s studio.

Many Dutch innovations in landscape painting took place in Haarlem, where painters such as Cornelis Vroom and Salomon van Ruysdael spent much of their career. Van Ruysdael and Jan van Goyen, another pioneer of the naturalistic landscape, were particularly influential in the development of a tonal phase of Dutch landscape painting.

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.