Adriaen van de Velde. Part 2 – beachscapes and landscapes

In my second blog on the seventeenth century Dutch artist, Adriaen van de Velde I want to look at his landscape and beachscape paintings.

The Beach at Scheveningen by Adriaen van de Velde (1658)
The Beach at Scheveningen by Adriaen van de Velde (1658)

Probably his best-known beachscape work is his 1658 painting entitled The Beach at Scheveningen which can be found in the Staatliche Museen, in Kassel, Germany and is looked upon as one of the outstanding works of the Dutch Golden Age.  Scheveningen is a district of The Hague.  It was a fishing village at the time of the painting and it was not until the early nineteenth century that it became a seaside bathing resort.

Of the painting and Adriaen van de Velde, the eminent Dutch art historian Horst Gerson wrote in a 1953 article in the Burlington Magazine, quoting from the eighteenth century German art historian Gustav Waagen’s 1860 book, Handbook of painting.  The German, Flemish and Dutch Schools:

…At the age of nineteen he was already in this department one of the greatest masters that ever lived; the picture dated 1658, in the Kassel Gallery, displaying a tender feeling for nature, a mastery of drawing and a delicacy of chiaroscuro and harmony which are truly astonishing…”

 The setting is a bright but windy summers day on a wide sandy beach which is populated by several visitors who have come to take in the bracing sea air.  In the centre foreground, we see a well-dressed young couple, who are probably on a day trip to the seaside.  To their right we see a group of children playing in a large puddle of water, the remnants of the previous high water.  To the left perched on a hill is a church with its tall steeple, beneath which we see a rider on a horse galloping parallel to the line of dunes.  A covered wagon slowly trundles along the tide line.  Towards the right foreground, we see a group of fishermen, with their trouser legs rolled up, preparing to go into the water with their nets but the most unusual character is the one in the extreme right of the work.  Take a look at him.  His trouser legs are also rolled up.  Is he yet another fisherman or somebody who just wants to paddle and feel the sea caressing his feet.  His hands are clasped casually behind his back.  He is lost in thought as he looks out to sea. Maybe he was once a seafarer and is now remembering those times.

The Beach at Scheveningen by Simon de Vlieger (1633)
The Beach at Scheveningen by Simon de Vlieger (1633)

Depictions of the Scheveningen beach were often seen in paintings by other Dutch artists such as one of Adriaen van de Velde’s tutors, Simon de Vlieger’s 1633 in his work The Beach at Scheveningen.

Painting before restoration
Painting before restoration

Another work entitled View of Scheveningen Sands painted by Hendrick van Anthonissen in 1641, featuring the same beach, has a very interesting story attached to it. The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has owned the work since it was bequeathed to them by amateur artist and clergyman Edward Kerrich in 1873.  By chance, the painting came to the Hamilton Kerr Institute, a division of the museum, renowned for paintings research and conservation, because the Dutch Golden Age gallery of the museum was being renovated.

View of Schevningen Sands by Hendrick van Anthonissen (1641)
View of Schevningen Sands by Hendrick van Anthonissen (1641)

The varnish coating on the painting had yellowed and become unsightly.   Initially, what appeared strange to the museum experts about the depiction was why were the people clustered at the sea edge and on the dunes above, on a cold wintry day staring at the tide line.  What were they looking at?  There then followed a long discussion among the experts of the museum about the potential risk of damaging the painting if and when they removed the varnish and some of the over-painting.  However, it was agreed to let the conservator, Shan Kuang, proceed to remove the overpainting, using a scalpel and solvents, working on tiny areas at a time,  under a microscope.  She then discovered that there appeared to be a man standing in mid-air, next to what looked like a sail from a boat.   After more of the over-painting was removed they realised the man was not standing in mid-air but on the back of an enormous whale which had beached in the shallows and what at first was thought to be a sail was in fact the whale’s large dorsal fin.

Carriage on the Beach at Scheveningen by Adriaen van de Velde (1660)
Carriage on the Beach at Scheveningen by Adriaen van de Velde (1660)

There is another Scheveningen beach painting by Adriaen van de Velde in the Louvre entitled Carriage on the Beach at Scheveningen.  This was completed in 1660 and is yet another of his works featuring the popular Dutch seaside resort.  In the painting we can see an imposing carriage making its way along the beach at Scheveningen.  The carriage is being directed by a man in a blue uniform, who sits astride the lead white horse, whilst the driver, who sits atop the carriage, is seen cracking his whip. There is a bit of humour added to this work as we see one of the valets, who is also bedecked in blue livery, running after two hunting dogs, which are happily playing on the sand. It is thought that the carriage was that of William, the young sovereign Prince of Orange, who would later become William III of England (William of Orange).  The tide is out, and we see local villagers walking along the beach.  Children are playing and, in the right foreground, we see a man carrying a large net, coming back from fishing. The composition, which is mainly made up of horizontals, is split by the vertical of the boat mast and the church steeple.  Sunlight comes diagonally from the left of the depiction, illuminating the white horses and casting long shadows of the people and carriage on the sand .  This soft golden light is probably due to the influence of the Dutch Italianate painters of the time such as Jan Both, Karel Dujardin and Nicolaes Berchem who had all stayed in Italy.  They had travelled extensively around the country and had adopted the style of landscape painting that they found there, and then incorporated Italian models and motifs into their own works.  Every detail in the painting has been meticulously drawn by the artist and it was his ability to draw characters that made him popular with other artists of the time who needed figures added to their landscapes or beachscapes – staffage!

Panoramic Landscape with a Horseman and a Post Wagon by Adriaen van de Velde (1661)
Panoramic Landscape with a Horseman and a Post Wagon by Adriaen van de Velde (1661)

However, Adriaen van de Velde is probably best known for his landscape paintings.  His painting, Panoramic Summer Landscape with a Horseman and a Post Wagon, which he completed in 1661 was described by Wolfgang Stechow, the German American art critic, pianist, and violinist, as being:

“…a landscape of such serene beauty and golden softness that its comparison with a Mozart melody will not, the writer hopes, be dismissed as farfetched…”

The setting is a late summer afternoon.  In the work, we see a man astride a horse being given directions.  Man and horse are bathed in sunlight as is the field with its four sheaves of wheat.  Cast in shadow, we also see a woman with child on her back and one by her side and a shepherd who is looking after his small flock of sheep.  In the right middle ground, also in shadow, is a small village on the edge of an expanse of water, with its church and tall steeple.

A River Scene by Salomon van Ruysdael
A River Scene by Salomon van Ruysdael

This type of composition we see before us with a tall tree on one side was dubbed by Wolfgang Stechow as being of a “one-wing composition” pattern which had been favoured by Salomon van Ruysdael.  It is a type of composition in which the large tree in some way acts as an introduction to the viewer to gaze at the panoramic view in the rest of the depiction.  Ruysdael’s landscapes would often have a single tall tree or a group of them to one side of his landscape paintings.  In this painting, van de Velde has counter-balanced the mass of leaves atop the tree on the left with the dense clouds on the right.

Departure for the Hunt by Adriaen van de Velde (1662)
Departure for the Hunt by Adriaen van de Velde (1662)

A painting by Adriaen van de Velde which has elements of a landscape painting but is populated by many figures is entitled Departure for the Hunt, which he completed in 1662.  In all. there are sixteen human figures, eight horses and twenty-three dogs.  However, most are hidden in shadow and only the couple on the left, the man astride the horse blowing the hunting horn and the groom tending the rider-less white horse are illuminated by sunlight.   The painting was last publicly exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1952.  One of the reviewers of the exhibition was Horst Gerson wrote about it in the Burlington Magazine.  He remarked:

“…The well-to-do English collector of the eighteenth century loved to possess a good Adriaen van de Velde with his Wouwermans and Aert van der Neer.  The brilliant colours and the refined technique of these artists appealed to the cultivated taste of the upper-class…”

The "haves" and "have-nots"
The “haves” and “have-nots”

It is a highly colourful depiction and we are prompted to look at the detail of the work with its many figures.  We see beggars in the bottom left of the work trying to cajole the well-dressed couple into helping them financially.  This combination of the two beggars and the wealthy beautifully adorned couple makes us aware of the “haves and the have nots”.  To the right in the foreground we see the amusing scene of one of the dog handlers struggling manfully to control his charges.  It seems he is losing the battle.

 There are so many more paintings I could have included but I though this is just a “taster” to whet your appetite and persuade you to research more of his works.  If you live in London the Dulwich Picture Gallery is exhibiting a collection of his works until January 15th 2017 and I hope to visit there before it closes.  A book which accompanies the exhibition, Adriaen van de Velde, Dutch Master of Landscape was my main source for this blog.

Tomorrow I am off on a three day trip to The Hague to visit the Gemeentemuseum and the Alice Neel Exhibition and see the works of the American artist whom I extensively covered in six blogs a month or so ago and whilst in the Dutch city I hope to visit some other art galleries and feast my eyes on some beautiful Dutch and Flemish seventeenth century art.

Advertisements

Adriaen van de Velde. Part 1 – Family and early influences.

I think I have already mentioned, on more than one occasion, that of all the different eras in art, my favourite is seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish art with some of my favourite artists, Jan Steen, Albert Cuyp, Jacob van Ruisdael and Paulus Potter all being born in the 1620’s.  Today, it gives me great pleasure in presenting another  talented painter of that time.   The artist I am featuring in this blog was once described as a wunderkind and the Mozart of the art world, for he, like the great composer, was a young genius.  Sadly, also like Mozart, he died young, at the age of thirty-five.  Today I am looking at the life and art of Adriaen van de Velde, whose landscapes are looked upon as being the very best that the Dutch Golden Age produced.  I also want to look at his family and other artists who influenced him.

The brothers van de Velde. Etching by Gerard Darbiche from painting by Ernest Meissonier
The brothers van de Velde.
Etching by Gerard Darbiche from painting by Ernest Meissonier

Adriaen van de Velde was born in Amsterdam in November 1636.  He came from an artistic family with both his father, Willem van de Velde the Elder, and Adriaen’s elder brother, Willem van de Velde the Younger, being marine painters.  Adriaen’s father’s interest in marine painting probably stemmed from the fact that his father, Adriaen’s Flemish-born grandfather, Willemsz van de Velde, was a bargemaster and merchant plying his trade in inland shipping.  His grandfather and his family were Calvinists and when Spain, which was staunch Catholic, took control of Flanders they were forced to move to the Protestant north, to Leiden sometime in the 1580’s.  Adriaen’s father, Willem van der Velde the Elder, was born in Leiden in 1611.  In 1631 he married Judith van Leeuwen and she went on to give him three children, Magdalena who was born in 1632, Willem in 1633 and finally Adriaen in 1636.

Battle of Dunkirk by Willem van de Velde the Elder (1639)
Battle of Dunkirk by Willem van de Velde the Elder (1639)

Willem van der Velde the Elder earliest drawings date back to the 1630’s and 1640’s and they would often feature individual ships of the Dutch fleet. His art also depicted many naval battles, which he had been commissioned to paint by the Dutch admiralty. One trip he made was in July 1653 was during the Battle of Scheveningen, which was the final naval battle of the First Anglo-Dutch War between the fleets of the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces.  In 1658 Van de Velde accompanied the Dutch navy to Copenhagen when Admiral Jacob van Wassenaer defended the Danes’ right of way into the Baltic against Charles X’s Swedish forces; the drawings that Van de Velde produced of this battle earned him the praise of the Danish king.

Dutch Men of War at Anchor by Willem van de Velde the Elder
Dutch Men of War at Anchor by Willem van de Velde the Elder

His representation of major naval battles continued with the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1665. One of his largest commissions, from Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, was to record the Four Days’ Battle in 1666.

The Battle Council on the De Zeven Provincien by Willem van de Velde the Elder (1666)
The Battle Council on the De Zeven Provincien by Willem van de Velde the Elder (1666)

The twenty-four drawings that survive represent moments from the battle itself as well as the individual vessels that gathered around De Ruyter’s flagship. De Ruyter employed the artist again during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, to record the Battle of Solebay on June 7, 1672.and sketch battle scenes first hand and then later, in the comfort of his studio, fashion very detailed pen paintings.  His expertise with pen paintings had him referred to as a ship draughtsman or artist and ship draughtsman rather than a painter.

Dutch Ferry Boat before a Breeze by Simon de Vlieger
Dutch Ferry Boat before a Breeze by Simon de Vlieger

Adriaen’s brother Willem, who was born in Leiden was interested in carrying on the marine painting tradition of his father and was trained by his father and later by Simon de Vlieger, a Dutch designer, draughtsman, and painter, who was most famous for his marine paintings.

Willem and his father remained in Amsterdam until 1672, the year Adriaen died, and then, as a consequence of the economic collapse brought about by the French invasion they were forced to move to England to seek out a living from their artworks.  Two years later, in 1674, he and his father entered the service of Charles II, and Willem the Younger had the use of a studio in the Queen’s House at Greenwich, before moving to Westminster in 1691.

Ships in a Gale by Willem van de Velde the Younger
Ships in a Gale by Willem van de Velde the Younger

Adriaen van de Velde, although initially taught by his father, wanted to paint something different and decided to concentrate on landscape art and some believe, for that reason, it was arranged that he went to study at the studio of Jan Jansz Wijnants.

Landscape with Two Hunters by Jan Wijnants
Landscape with Two Hunters by Jan Wijnants

Wijnants was an Italianate landscape painter who took his inspiration from the art of the Dutch painters who had travelled to Italy and consciously adopted the style of landscape painting that they found there.  They then incorporated Italian models and motifs into their own works.  However, this is disputed by many as Wijnants was only five years older than Adriaen and the two were unlikely to be master and pupil.  What is agreed is that the two collaborated on some works.

Cattle in a Meadow by Paulus Potter (1652) Oil on wood.
Cattle in a Meadow by Paulus Potter (1652)
Oil on wood.

One artist of that era who was a great influence on Adriaen was Paulus Potter who was eleven years his senior.  Paulus Potter was a Dutch painter who specialized in animals within landscapes, usually with a low vantage point.  He lived in Amsterdam from 1852 to 1854 which would be about the time when sixteen-year old Adriaen would be looking for a tutor and a studio to work in.  Many believe Potter could have taken Adriaen under his wing and tutored him.

Standing Bull by Adriaen van de Velde (c.1657)
Standing Bull by Adriaen van de Velde (c.1657)

Adriaen van de Velde besides being a talented landscape painter was also an accomplished draughtsman. He was actively involved in the practice of staffage.  So what is staffage?  Staffage is when an artist adds human or animal figures as subordinate elements to a landscape painting in order to give the painting a livelier appearance. Staffage was commonly used by 16th- and 17th-century landscape painters, who would often include religious and mythological scenes in their works. Staffage was frequently painted into a picture, not by the landscapist, but by another artist and this where Adriaen came into his element for he was extremely talented when it came to drawing animals and humans and added figures and animals into paintings by Meindert Hobbema, Jacob van Ruisdael, Willem Verboom and other contemporary artists.

Kneeling Female by Adriaen van de Velde
Kneeling Female by Adriaen van de Velde

Adriaen van de Velde was one of only a few seventeenth century landscape artists whose surviving graphic collection of works include figure studies. Many of his figure studies and sketches, which were later used in his paintings, still exist.  Adriaen completed many female nude studies and was always interested in posture and how it affected the female form.  A nude female sketch of his can be found in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford entitled Kneeling Female Nude.

The Annunciation to the Virgin by Adriaen van de Velde (1667)
The Annunciation to the Virgin by Adriaen van de Velde (1667)

It is thought that this sketch could have been a preliminary sketch he used when painting The Annunciation to the Virgin which he completed in 1667 and which now hangs in the Rijksmuseum.

Vertumnus and Pomona by Adriaen van de Velde
Vertumnus and Pomona by Adriaen van de Velde

Adriaen completed a work which highlights his ability to depict the female form.  It is entitled Vertumnus and Pomona and was completed in 1670.  Vertumnus and Pomona is a story of seduction and deception from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and the two featured in many 17th century Dutch paintings. Vertumnus, the Roman god of seasons and change, assumed multiple guises as he attempted to woo the recalcitrant wood nymph Pomona.

The Migration of Jacob by Adriaen van de Velde (1663)
The Migration of Jacob by Adriaen van de Velde (1663)

Besides his wonderful landscapes Adriaen completed many religious works and his “stand out” painting would probably be one he completed in 1663 entitled The Migration of Jacob.  The depiction is based on the story in the Old Testament (Genesis XXXI, 17-18):

“…Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan…”

Jacob left Paddan Aram in Northwest Mesopotamia, fleeing from his father -in-law, Laban whom he had worked for,  for more than twenty years. The bible story continued:

“…When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods.  Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. So he fled with all he had, crossed the Euphrates River, and headed for the hill country of Gilead…”

In the painting, we see a large procession meandering through the countryside.  It is headed by Jacob who with his wives, possessions and cattle are on a journey to reach his father, Isaac, who lived in Canaan.  Jacob, wearing the white turban sits astride the bay horse and we see him talking to his favourite wife, Rachel.  She is riding the white horse whilst she breast-feeds her child, Joseph.  The figures in the painting are in the shadows whilst the two main protagonists and those who are herding the sheep, are bathed in sunlight.  If one did not know the story one would believe it is a peaceful procession slowly crossing the landscape but Adriaen has add dark threatening clouds to give the idea that there is an urgency to this “convoy” and that not all is well.  Laban, after three days, realised that his daughter and son-in-law have left taking with them many of his possessions and gives chase.  What happened next ?   I will leave you to consult the Old Testament book of Genesis to find out !!

Agony in the Garden by Adriaen van de Velde
Agony in the Garden by Adriaen van de Velde

Another religious work by the artist was Agony in the Garden. This picture belongs to the principal group of large-scale religious works by him which he completed in the 1660s for the secret Catholic places of worship in and around Amsterdam. These commissions for religious works by the Catholic Church followed on from his marriage in 1657 to a Catholic lady, Maria Pietersz Ouderkerck, at which time he also converted to Catholicism.

In my next look at the works of Adriaen van de Velde I will be concentrating on what he was best known for  – his exquisite landscapes.