National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of River Landscape Annibale Carracci (artist)
Bolognese, 1560 - 1609
River Landscape, c. 1590
oil on canvas
overall: 88.3 x 148.1 cm (34 3/4 x 58 5/16 in.) framed: 116.8 x 175.6 x 8.9 cm (46 x 69 1/8 x 3 1/2 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1952.5.58
On View
From the Tour: The Emergence of New Genres
Object 2 of 6

Annibale Carracci and his brother Agostino, along with their older cousin Lodovico, established an academy in Bologna. Rejecting what they viewed as the exaggeration of mannerism, they returned to an approach that was grounded in careful observation of the natural world. It is not surprising, then, to find that Annibale and Agostino created some of the first Italian landscape paintings—scenes in which the landscape itself takes center stage rather than serving as a mere backdrop.

Here, the textures of plants—soft foliage, wet reeds, and the mirroring surface of the distant lake—are all carefully recorded. Small figures are subordinate to the world around them. It has been suggested that the figures reclining in the boat are lovers on an illicit outing, but their presence seems intended simply to give scale and a human dimension to nature. The poling boatman in his bright clothing serves best, not as an actor in some narrative, but in a purely aesthetic role as a means to draw our eye into the center of the composition. Effortless and spontaneous brushwork lend the kind of vibrant naturalism that suggests a real place. Biographers noted that the Carracci drew extensively out-of-doors; these final canvases were, however, painted in the studio.

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