Jan van Goyen (Dutch, Leiden 1596 - 1656 The Hague)
Landscape with Dunes, 1647
Monogrammed and dated, lower right: VG / 1647
Oil on panel (oak)
18 1/2 x 28 in. (47 x 71.1 cm)
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, 1941
Jan van Goyen was the master of the tonalist landscape, using a limited palette of muted colors to describe the subtle, atmospheric beauties of the Dutch countryside. Landscape with Dunes, a mature work by the artist, uses vertical elements and contrasts of light and dark to break up the horizontal sweep of the land.
Painted in 1647, Landscape with Dunes represents van Goyen at the height of his career. The gently undulating Dutch landscape is spotted with simple rural vignettes: at left a farmer plows the field as cattle graze nearby; two men, accompanied by a dog, clamber across the fields at center; and at right, three men idle in conversation by rustic farm buildings. The strict horizontality characteristic of the artist's panoramic views of the mid 1640s is here alleviated by a few vertical elements piercing the horizon--the centrally placed church spire, the distant windmill at left, and the windswept trees flanking the farmhouse at right. Although the use of sweeping diagonals to marshal landscape forms is a holdover from the effortless contours of van Goyen's more tonalist compositions of the 1630s, the strong contrasts of alternating light and dark signal a later, more "classical" phase in his art.1 The marvelously free and calligraphic application of paint, so typical of van Goyen the painter and draftsman, heightens the directness and seeming spontaneity of the scene.2
M. E. Wieseman
Jan Josephsz van Goyen was born at Leiden on 13 January 1596. From 1606 he studied painting with a series of lesser-known Leiden artists, and with Willem Gerritsz in Hoorn. After traveling in France, van Goyen became a pupil of the landscape painter Esaias van de Velde in Haarlem around 1617. Van Goyen returned to Leiden, where he married Annetje Willemsdr van Raelst in 1618, purchased a house in 1625, and is documented regularly until 1632. In summer 1632 van Goyen moved to The Hague, where he resided until his death on 27 April 1656. Van Goyen served twice as a hoofdman of the Guild of St. Luke in The Hague, in 1638 and 1640. He traveled extensively throughout the Netherlands and Germany, filling numerous sketchbooks with direct and spontaneous studies after nature as well as more finished compositions (compare Oberlin's Houtewael on the Diemerdijk, ca. 1651).3 Although van Goyen was a popular and productive artist, he speculated with remarkably ill success in real estate and tulip bulbs, and died insolvent. Van Goyen had numerous followers, but his only documented pupils are Nicolaes Berchem, Ary (Adriaan) van der Kabel (1630/1-1705), and Jan Steen; his daughter Margarethe married Steen in 1649.
Van Goyen was enormously prolific, producing more than 800 drawings and 1200 paintings. His earliest paintings (from about 1620-26) are close to those of his teacher Esaias van de Velde in their additive compositions and bright accents of local color. From the late 1620s, however, together with the Haarlem painters Pieter de Molyn (1595-1661), Jan Porcellis (ca. 1584-1632), and Salomon van Ruysdael (ca. 1600/3-1670), van Goyen developed a new "tonal" manner of landscape painting, characterized by a diagonally unified compositional structure and a restricted, almost monochromatic palette of tans, browns, and greyish greens. The subject matter of these tonalist landscapes was also somewhat transformed, focusing on unpretentious views of the Dutch countryside laid out beneath towering skies.
Beck, Hans-Ulrich. Jan van Goyen 1596-1656; ein Oeuvreverzeichnis. 2 vols. Amsterdam, 1972-73. Suppl. vols. 3-4. Doornspijk, 1987-90.
Vogelaar, Christiaan, et al. Jan van Goyen. Exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, 1996-97.
Collection Dr. Johan Focke, Bremen (as cited in 1928 sales catalogue, below)
Collection Fraulein M. Focke, Bremen (by 1904)
Sale Amsterdam (F. Muller), 12 December 1922, lot 159 (ƒ1500)4
Collection Mrs. A. Rowe, New York
Sale New York (American Art Association), 26 April 1928, lot 79, ill. ($1275)
With Gebr. Douwes, Amsterdam (1928, acquired by them in London)
With M. Knoedler & Company, Inc., London and New York (1929-30)
With E. J. van Wisselingh, Amsterdam (1932)
Collection Kuenxe Graef? (noted by Knoedler, 1941)
With M. Knoedler & Company, Inc., New York, from whom purchased in 1941
Bremen, Kunsthalle, 1904. Gemälde aus bremischem Privatbesitz. Cat. no. 180.
Amsterdam, E. J. van Wisselingh, 1932. Dutch and Flemish Pictures of the Seventeenth Century. Summer. Cat. no. 3.
Poughkeepsie, N. Y., Vassar College Art Gallery, 1938. Old Masters of the 17th and 18th Centuries. Cat. no. 7.
Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1940. Cat. no. 7.
Lawrence, University of Kansas Museum of Art, 1958. Masterworks from University and College Art Collections. 22 February - 30 March. Cat. no. 74.
Pauli, Gustav. Gemälde alter Meister aus bremischem Privatbesitz. Bremen, 1905, n. p.
Hofstede de Groot, C. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Vol. 8. London, 1927, no. 295 (erroneously as signed "Van Goyen" and undated).
Stechow, Wolfgang. Dutch Landscape Painting of the Seventeenth Century. London, 1966, p. 28, fig. 34.
Stechow, Wolfgang. European and American Paintings and Sculpture in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1967, p. 67, fig. 55.
Beck, Hans-Ulrich. Jan van Goyen 1596-1656; ein Oeuvreverzeichnis. Vol. 2. Amsterdam, 1973, pp. 503-4, no. 1155.
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 210.
The oak panel, apparently formed of a single plank, was thinned slightly and cradled prior to the painting's acquisition by the museum. There is a horizontal split (or join?) approximately 8 3/8 in. (21.3 cm) from the bottom edge, and extending the full width of the panel. As is typical of the artist's work from this period, the thin white ground does not obscure the grain of the panel support, which is readily discernible through the paint layer and provides an important textural component to the work. There is fairly extensive retouching throughout the sky, possibly to cover abrasion from past overcleaning,5 and along the join (particularly at the right edge). Losses to the bottom corners of the panel have been filled and inpainted.
1. See Wolfgang Stechow, Dutch Landscape Painting of the Seventeenth Century (London, 1966), p. 28.
2. On van Goyen's technique, see E. Melanie Griffith, "Jan van Goyen en de techniek van het naturalistische landschap," Jan van Goyen (exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, 1996-97), esp. pp. 74-78.
3. Black chalk and wash, 9.9 x 15.9 cm, R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, AMAM inv. 58.40. On van Goyen's drawings in general, see Hans-Ulrich Beck, Jan van Goyen 1596-1656; ein Oeuvreverzeichnis, vol. 1 (Amsterdam, 1972); on the sketchbooks, see idem, Ein Skizzenbuch von Jan van Goyen (The Hague, 1966), and Edwin Buijsen, The Sketchbook of Jan van Goyen from the Bredius-Kronig Collection (The Hague, 1993).
4. Hofstede de Groot's annotated copy of the sale catalogue (at the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorisch Documentatie, The Hague) notes: "een beetje te sterk schoongemaakt" (a little overcleaned).
5. A photograph of the painting taken prior to its acquisition by the museum shows slightly different (overpainted) contours of the clouds, two birds in flight directly above the church spire, and other minor changes from the painting in its present state. There is no record of when these alterations may have been made.