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Aelbert Cuyp: The Painter of Exotic Italianate Landscapes

By Unknown - Own work, Public Domain, Link

Depicting the meadow with grazing cows, farm buildings, waterways, the ruins of a historic monument, or the graceful cityscapes of Dordrecht, suffused in a soft golden glow of early morning and evening light, the Dutch realist painter, Aelbert Jacobszoon Cuyp, was one of the leading Dutch landscape painters of the Baroque period, whose Italianate landscapes of the Dutch countryside is revered for their poetic use of light and atmosphere.

Belonging to the most famous family of painters of the Dutch Golden Age, Cuyp was born on October 20, 1620, in Dordrecht, Netherlands. Son of a successful portrait painter, Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp, Aelbert received his earliest training, assisting his father by painting landscape backgrounds for portrait commissions. Later, he abandoned his father's style and subject matter and turned almost exclusively to landscapes and riverscapes, painting only an occasional portrait in his mature period.

The Dutch equivalent of Claude Lorrain, Cuyp is particularly noted for his poetic use of light and atmosphere in his landscapes. In his initial works, painted in the early 1640s, the landscapes have occasional cattle and human figures, executed with a firm but flowing touch. To the later 1640s and 1650s, he executed more expansive settings like the banks of the Mass and Waal near Dordrecht, with shipping on calm waters, “The Mass at Dordrecht”-or resting cattle silhouetted against an evening sky, “Cattle”, and the bolder Rhenish landscapes, with groups of horsemen and peasants, “Evening Landscape with Horsemen and Shepherds”.

Bathed in the glaze of golden light, all his paintings reflect an ethereal essence and unique poetic sensibility. Incorporating the broken-brush technique from Jan van Goyen and Italianate lighting from Jan Both, Cuyp developed his unique style based on his observations of the optical effects of moist atmosphere.

Cuyp signed many but dated few of his paintings, and it is difficult to establish a chronology of his stylistic development. He was clearly an important artist in Dordrecht, although little is known about the organization and production of a workshop. Arnold Houbraken, a native of Dordrecht, mentions only one pupil, Barent van Calraet, whose brother Abraham van Calraet was a follower of Cuyp. An ardent follower, Abraham mimicked his style in a number of landscapes to such an extent that it becomes difficult to distinguish their work.

During the last 20 years of his life, Cuyp painted  little. At the age of 81, he died on 15 November, 1691, in Dordrecht.



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