Overview

This luminous painting depicts Aelbert Cuyp’s native Dordrecht from the west, as seen from a pier near the village of Zwijndrecht, situated on the opposite bank of the river Maas. The three small, wooden, fishing skiffs tied up at the rough-hewn pier help give the painting its rustic charm. Across the Maas rise Dordrecht’s city walls, with the thin spire of the Groothoofdspoort, a major gateway to the inner harbor, appearing prominently at the left. Sailboats or rowboats provided constant ferry transportation across the river to Dordrecht’s neighboring villages.

Cuyp’s numerous views of river life are extremely varied and demonstrate a remarkable sensitivity to the changing light and water conditions encountered on inland waterways. He could comfortably set boats in the water, even as he visually contrasted water’s translucent and changing surface with the physical presence of heavy wooden hulls and weighty canvas sails. Cuyp’s pictorial sensitivities were also directed toward the activities of humans and animals in and around the water; they added visual and thematic interest to the inherent beauty of his river scenes.

Inscription

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Marks and Labels

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Provenance

(Sale, by De Vries, Roos, and Brondgeest, Amsterdam, 10-12 May 1853, 2nd day, no. 16); (Lamme).[1] Herman de Kat, Dordrecht; (his estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 2-3 May and 7-8 May 1866, no. 17); Louis Viardot [1800-1883], Paris; (his estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 30 April 1884, no. 2). Alfred Thieme, Leipzig, by 1889.[2] (Galerie Sedelmeyer, Paris).[3] private collection, Basel;[4] (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 30 November 1973, no. 124); (Brod Gallery, London). (Julie Kraus, Paris), in 1976.[5] private collection;[6] (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 18 April 1985, no. 2); George M. [1932-2001] and Linda H. Kaufman, Norfolk, Virginia; Kaufman Americana Foundation, Norfolk; gift 2012 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1889
Ältere Meister aus sächsischem Privatbesitz, Leipziger Kunstverein, Leipzig, 1889, no. 44.
2001
Aelbert Cuyp, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Gallery, London; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2001-2002, no. 8, repro.
2008
Pride of Place: Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age, Mauritshuis, The Hague; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2008-2009, not in catalogue (shown only in Washington).

Bibliography

1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. 8 vols. Translated by Edward G. Hawke. London, 1907-1927: 2(1909):190, no. 635, 198, no. 662.
1975
Reiss, Stephen. Aelbert Cuyp. Boston, 1975: 49, 210.
1992
Chong, Alan. "Aelbert Cuyp and the Meanings of Landscape." Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1992: 284-285, no. 28.

Conservation Notes

The painting was executed on a wood panel made from two boards joined horizontally. It has been backed and cradled. Wooden strips have been added to the edges. The thin, off-white ground does not fully cover the color or the grain of the wood. The paint was applied in various thicknesses, sometimes very thinly so that the wood remains visible, and in other areas, the lighter passages in the foreground, for example, the paint is thicker. The sky has been painted more thinly, and sometimes the texture of the artist’s brush is discernible, particularly where he used the end of the bristles to give texture to the clouds. Cuyp applied the paint wet-into-wet, but also manipulated semi-dry layers in some areas, such as the reflections in the water.

The panel is in good condition and is not warped. Some tented paint runs along the grain just above the heads of the figures. Numerous small areas of inpainting are found in the sky, some of which has discolored slightly. It is likely that this inpainting was applied to lessen the dominance of the wood grain, which becomes more pronounced because the paint and ground become more transparent with age. The varnish is even but slightly yellow.

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