This bucolic landscape depicts two horsemen who have stopped on a small rise overlooking a broad river valley to ask local herdsmen for directions. With figures and cattle silhouetted against an expansive sky and late afternoon light bathing the scene in a golden glow, the painting conveys the sense of peace and tranquility that pervaded the Netherlands after the signing of the Treaty of Münster in 1648 had ended the war against Spain and finally established the Dutch Republic.
This highly evocative landscape has a basis in reality: the valley of the Rhine River near the towns of Cleves and Calcar, not far from the Dutch border. Cuyp had visited this broad river valley in the early 1640s and recorded his impressions of its towns, churches, and windmills in a series of panoramic drawings that were once part of a sketchbook. When Cuyp painted this work, he referred to one of his drawings of the town of Calcar, which housed the ruins of the castle of the dukes of Cleves, seen here in the far distance behind the haze. Nevertheless, atmosphere, not topography, was Cuyp’s primary concern, and the result is this quiet, reflective image of an Arcadian Dutch countryside.
lower right: A. cuyp. .
Probably (sale, by J. A. Jolles and H. de Winter, Amsterdam, 23 May 1764, no. 41, bought in). C. Price, London; Frederick Howard, 5th earl of Carlisle [1748-1825], London, and Castle Howard, Yorkshire, by 1771; by descent in the Howard family to George James Howard, 9th earl of Carlisle [1843-1911], London and Castle Howard; purchased September 1907 by (P. & D. Colnaghi, London), half share with (M. Knoedler & Co., London and New York); sold July 1909 to William Andrews Clark [1839-1925], New York; bequest 1926 to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by the National Gallery of Art.
- Probably Pictures by Rubens, Rembrandt, VanDyke, and other Artists of the Flemish and Dutch Schools, British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1815, no. 57.
- Probably Pictures of the Italian, Spanish, Flemish, and Dutch Schools, British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1822, no. 136 or no. 138.
- Probably Pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, and Dutch Masters, British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1828, no. 83.
- Probably Pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French and English Masters, British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1853, no. 7.
- Possibly Royal Dublin Society, 1861, no. 61, as Cattle Piece.
- Loan Exhibition. Masterpieces of the Corcoran Gallery of Art: A Benefit Exhibition in Honor of the Gallery's Centenary, Wildenstein, New York, 1959, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- The William A. Clark Collection: An exhibition marking the 50th Anniversary of the installation of The Clark Collection at The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, no catalogue.
- Aelbert Cuyp, National Gallery of Art, Washington; The National Gallery, London; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2001-2002, no. 25, repro.
Exhibition History Notes
 The early exhibition history references are all tentative, as the Earl of Carlisle owned six paintings attributed to Cuyp, several depicting cattle and horsemen, and the exhibition catalogues provide no detailed descriptions or size information.
 Lent by George William Frederick Howard, 7th earl of Carlisle (1802-1864), this painting could be the NGA painting; see Alan Chong, “Aelbert Cuyp and the Meaning of Landscape,” Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1992: 375 n. 2.
- Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 5(1834):309, no. 93.
- "The British Institution. The Old Masters.” The Art-Journal 5 (July 1853): 173.
- 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):129, no. 424.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 2(1908):123, no. 424.
- Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813-1912. 5 vols. London, 1913-1915: 1(1913):240, no. 57; 241, no. 136 or 138; 242, no. 83; 244, no. 7.
- Carroll, Dana H. Catalogue of Objects of Fine Art and Other Properties at the Home of William Andrews Clark, 962 Fifth Avenue. Part I. Unpublished manuscript, n.d. (1925): 134, no. 74.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Illustrated Handbook of the W.A. Clark Collection. Washington, 1928: 38.
- Holmes, Jerrold. "The Cuyps in America." Art in America 18, no. 4 (June 1930): 185, no. 31.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Illustrated Handbook of The W.A. Clark Collection. Washington, 1932: 43, no. 2063, as Landscape with Cattle, Shepherd and Horses.
- Breckenridge, James D. A handbook of Dutch and Flemish paintings in the William Andrews Clark collection. Washington, 1955: 11, repro.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Masterpieces of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959: 14, repro.
- Dattenberg, Heinrich. Niederrheinansichten holländischer Künstler des 17. Jahrhunderts. Die Kunstdenkmäler des Rheinlands 10. Düsseldorf, 1967: 74, no. 82.
- Reiss, Stephen. Aelbert Cuyp. Boston, 1975: 126, no. 89, repro.
- Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 299, fig. 451.
- Heugten, Siraar van. "Grazende modellen: Aspecten van het Nederlandse veestuk.” In Meesterlijk Vee: Nederlandse Veeschilders 1600–1900. Edited by C. Boschma. Exh. cat. Dordrechts Museum; Fries Museum, Leeuwarden. Zwolle, 1988: 23-24, repro.
- Chong, Alan. "Aelbert Cuyp and the Meanings of Landscape." Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1992: 373-375, no. 133.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 48, 50 n. 13, as Five Cows, Herdsmen and Two Riders..
- Coyle, Laura, and Dare Myers Hartwell, eds. Antiquities to Impressionism: The William A. Clark Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art. Washington, DC, 2001: 22-23, 67, repro.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Aelbert Cuyp. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; National Gallery, London; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Washington, 2001: no. 25, 142-143, 197-198, repro.