By Darla McCammon
The oil painting titled “The Maas at Dordrecht” was painted in 1650 by Aelbert Cuyp. Maas is not what one thinks. The word means “river” in the Dutch language.
This river wound through the Netherlands as we have been studying the fascinating Dutch artists of the Golden Age of Painting. This painting was done by an artist who was well-known for his quiet and beautiful landscapes of shepherds tending their herds and flocks in uninterrupted solitude. Cuyp’s departure from his normal reputation of being a favorite landscape artist to do this painting remains somewhat of a mystery—but perhaps not.
We know it is depicting a scene that was exhibiting the power and military might of the Dutch Armada as their governing body began negotiating for their independence. Cuyp almost certainly sympathized with this cause and yearned for his peaceful painting ventures to continue.
The work of art you are viewing is more than five feet across and you can see it in person if you visit the Getty Museum. The town of Dordrecht is on the right and the city of Zwijndrecht is on the opposite shore. The Maas curves around Dordrecht to meet the sea in the distance. For almost two weeks 30,000 soldiers were entertained and fed for free by the city residents.
Although this shows a somewhat peaceful moment on the river, there is also an indication of building activity as more sails appear on the horizon. As more trading ships, small craft, yachts, and military vessels begin to form a busy show of nautical force during this time of preparing to fight for independence.
Aelbert Cuyp, now known as one of the most talented Dutch landscape painters during the Golden Age, was born in 1620 in this same town. He had early exposure to art because his father, Jacob Cuyp, was a portrait painter. The younger Cuyp departed from portraits and delved into his passion for landscapes. Cuyp not only excelled in his art career but became an important member of the Dutch Reformed Church. He married a wealthy widow and his painting efforts slowed down.
Cuyp passed away in November 1691 and even then, as with many of the talented Dutch artists, critics were questioning if mechanical aids were used to assist them in such spectacular work. After his death only his own work was found in his home, but critics then shifted to scoff at the changes over time in his painting—something that happens to almost every artist as they develop their style.
Cuyp definitely showed some influence of other artists such as those in Utrecht and some who had visited Italy and returned with new techniques in composition and the use of lighting effects, but it is obvious to most scholars that he was his own man with his own style. Later a man named de Groot began a catalogue of master works of the Dutch and found many students of Cuyp’s had works that were mistaken for Cuyp paintings. Many other artists later imitated his style and flair but de Groot devoted himself to making sure the right paintings were attributed to the right artist.
Upcoming and Current Events:
- The Don Swartzendruber exhibit at the Warsaw City Hall gallery is now open. It will end May 31.
- Visit Lakeland Art Gallery to see the winners in the Spring Competition. It opens at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
For more information about this column, please contact Darla McCammon at [email protected] or at (574) 527-4044. Older columns can be read at www.darlamc.com.