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Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Adriaen van Ostade/The Cottage Dooryard/1673,” Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, NGA Online Editions, http://purl.org/nga/collection/artobject/1187 (accessed July 30, 2014).

 

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Overview

One of Haarlem’s most prolific artists, Adriaen van Ostade painted daily life in rural villages, from bawdy tavern and barn scenes to more dignified portrayals. In this peaceful domestic scene, a mother is cleaning mussels as two of her children and the family dog play nearby. An older sister entertains the baby while the father stands in the doorway watching over the scene. Laundry is drying on a line attached to the chicken coop, vines partially obscure a dovecote, and two beehives are stored on a shelf above the water pump. In contrast to the bricked-in urban courtyards portrayed by Pieter de Hooch (1629–1684), this well-maintained brick home has a hard-packed dirt yard, characteristic of a village dwelling. The painting exudes a sense of harmony and well-being.

Adriaen van Ostade entered the artists’ guild of Haarlem in 1634, probably after studying under Frans Hals (c. 1582/1583–1666). Van Ostade became the guild’s headman in 1647, and that may have been the occasion for which Hals painted the portrait of Van Ostade that is part of the National Gallery of Art collection (NGA 1937.1.70). Jan Steen (1625/1626–1679) and Adriaen’s younger brother Isack van Ostade (1621–1649), whose own scenes of village life can be seen at the National Gallery of Art, both studied with Adriaen. The two Van Ostade brothers paid remarkable attention to the texture of such common surfaces as thatched roofs, crumbling bricks, and cracked window panes.

Entry

Situated within the earthen courtyard of a vine-covered cottage is a tender vignette of domestic harmony and tranquility. The mother at the center of the family group busily cleans mussel shells in preparation for the evening meal. While the husband watches from the doorway of the wooden wall at the rear of the courtyard, an older sister cares for her youngest sibling as two other children play with the family dog. No comings or goings, no exceptional confrontations or other unusual circumstances provided motivation for this scene; rather, Adriaen van Ostade seems to be celebrating the peaceful existence of this family tending to daily life.

When writing about Van Ostade in the early eighteenth century, Arnold Houbraken marveled at the lively and spirited nature of the artist’s peasant scenes. To emphasize Van Ostade’s remarkable naturalism and tender view of country life, Houbraken compared his images of rural folk to those found in an early eighteenth-century pastural poem about a country kermis (fair).[1] In his associations between poetry and Van Ostade’s image Houbraken emphasized the artist’s imaginative interpretation of reality. In this painting, for example, Van Ostade captured not only the various attitudes of the members of the peasant family but also the sense of their home environment, whether it be the earthenware pots scattered here and there, the clothes hanging over the line, the dovecotes, the beehives, or the broken panes of glass in the upper windows. Their world seems real and tangible; the textures of the bricks, mortar, wood, glass, and cloth are convincingly indicated through subtle nuances of Van Ostade’s brush. Finally, his organization of light and shadow helps unify the scene while his selected color accents enliven the image.

Van Ostade almost certainly composed this work from various studies made from life; it was his practice throughout his career to make drawings of figures that he then used as points of departure for his paintings and etchings.[2] Although no preliminary drawings have been associated with this work, specific evidence that he composed this painting in the studio comes from a comparison with a finished drawing from the same year entitled Pig Slaughtering in Peasant Village [fig. 1]. Many elements in the two compositions are identical, including the wash hanging on the line, but the artist has modified the building and setting in subtle ways: he changed the leading in the windows and opened the vista to the background to create the sense of a village street rather than a courtyard. One motif, however, has remained the same: the vine clinging to the cottage, a traditional image of fertility and conjugal felicity.[3]

Van Ostade painted The Cottage Dooryard near the end of a long and illustrious career during which he created numerous drawings and etchings of rural life as well as paintings (see Tavern Scene). As his style evolved from a relatively dark to a light palette, his attention shifted from depictions of rowdy peasants to those whose lives embodied family values centered on mutual caring and sharing of domestic responsibilities. Country folk in his late work no longer occupy hovels, but rather more substantial structures, which are rustic in appearance and simply furnished.

The stylistic evolution, in many ways gradual and quite understandable in the broader context of Dutch art, does, nevertheless, raise questions about the changing nature of the artist’s image of country life. If, following Houbraken’s lead, one views Van Ostade’s images of peasants as poetic evocations of rural life that he has “thought up” rather than as descriptive reality, then it is important to try to understand his attitudes toward his subject matter.[4] The shift in style and concept may be sociological as well as artistic. Whereas during the 1630s and 1640s there seemed to be widespread assumptions that lower-class people were bestial or vulgar, by the 1670s the rural Dutch, unaffected by the influx of foreign influences and the pursuit of wealth that was so evident in city life, came to embody the ideal virtues at the foundation of Dutch culture. These, in large part, had been codified in the prolific writings of Jacob Cats, whose work was frequently republished throughout the century, and would continue to be so until the mid-nineteenth century. The domestic tranquility and homey virtues found in Van Ostade’s depictions of lower-class households during the latter part of his career thus represent a view of peasant existence seen through a veil of nostalgia for a simpler, less complex way of life, one that incorporated values that had been at the essence of Dutch society. In this regard, it is interesting that Van Ostade created this idyllic scene the year after he had fled Haarlem because of the French invasion of the Netherlands.[5]

One also wonders whether the exquisite watercolors [fig. 2] Van Ostade made after this and other similar late paintings spoke to the same need.[6] The positive response to these late paintings and their related watercolors was immediate and lasting and may explain much about the widespread appeal of mid-seventeenth-century Dutch art in the Netherlands at the beginning of the eighteenth century.[7]

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

April 24, 2014

Inscription

lower center: Av. Ostade 1673 (Av in ligature)

  • Inscription

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Adriaen Swalmius [1689-1747], Schiedam;[1] (sale, Rotterdam, 15 May 1747, no. 2); Jacob de Roore [1686-1747], Antwerp; (sale, The Hague, 4 September 1747, no. 84); Pieter Bisschop [c. 1690-1758] and Jan Bisschop [1680-1771], Rotterdam; purchased 1771 with the Bisschop collection by Adrian Hope [1709-1781] and his nephew, John Hope [1737-1784], Amsterdam; by inheritance after Adrian Hope's death to John Hope, Amsterdam and The Hague; by inheritance to his sons, Thomas Hope [1769-1831], Adrian Elias Hope [1772-1834], and Henry Philip Hope [1774-1839], Bosbeek House, near Heemstede, and, as of 1794, London, where the collection was in possession John's cousin, Henry Hope [c. 1739-1811]; by inheritance 1811 solely to Henry Philip Hope, Amsterdam and London, but in possession of his brother, Thomas Hope, London; by inheritance 1839 to Thomas' son, Henry Thomas Hope [1808-1862], London; by inheritance to his wife, née Adèle Bichat [d. 1884], London; by inheritance to her grandson, Henry Francis Hope Pelham-Clinton-Hope, 8th duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme [1866-1941], London; sold 1898 to (Asher Wertheimer, London); sold 1899 to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1815
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1815, no. 142.
1857
Art Treasures of the United Kingdom: Paintings by Ancient Masters, Art Treasures Palace, Manchester, 1857, no. 735.
1881
Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1881, no. 106.
1891
Loan to display with permanent collection, South Kensington Museum, London, 1891-1898.
1909
The Hudson-Fulton Celebration, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909, no. 69.
1984
Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1984, no. 93, repro.
1990
Great Dutch Paintings from America, Mauritshuis, The Hague; The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, 1990-1991, no. 47, repro., as Courtyard with a Woman Cleaning Mussels.
1998
A Collector's Cabinet, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998, no. 43.

Bibliography

1752
Hoet, Gerard. Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen. 2 vols. The Hague, 1752: 2:196, no. 2, 206, no. 84, 528.
1824
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. An account of all the pictures exhibited in the rooms of the British Institution, from 1813 to 1823, belonging to the nobility and gentry of England: with remarks, critical and explanatory. London, 1824: 186, no. 7.
1824
Westmacott, C. M. British Galleries of Painting and Sculpture: Comprising a General Historical and Critical Catalogue with Separate Notices of Every Work of Fine Art in Principal Collections. London, 1824: 239.
1829
Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 1(1829):158, no. 188.
1838
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Works of Art and Artists in England. 3 vols. Translated by H. E. Lloyd. London, 1838: 2:335.
1854
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss.. 3 vols. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. London, 1854: 2:119, no. 3.
1857
Art Treasures of the United Kingdom. Exh. cat. Art Treasures Palace, Manchester, 1857: 56, no. 735.
1857
Thoré, Théophile E. J. (William Bürger). Trésors d’Art exposés à Manchester en 1857 et provenant des collections royales, des collections publiques et des collections particulières de la Grande-Bretagne. Paris, 1857: 315-316.
1869
Gaedertz, Theodor. Adrian van Ostade: sein Leben und seine Kunst. Lübeck, 1869: 157.
1881
Royal Academy of Arts. Exhibition of Works by The Old Masters and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1881: no. 106.
1885
Catalogue of Paintings Forming the Collection of P. A. B. Widener, Ashbourne, near Philadelphia. 2 vols. Paris, 1885-1900: 2(1900):234, repro.
1898
South Kensington Museum. The Hope Collection of Pictures of the Dutch and Flemish Schools with Descriptions Reprinted from the Catalogue Published in 1891 by the Science and Art Department of the South Kensington Museum. London, 1898: no. 76, repro.
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: 3(1910):294, no. 503.
1909
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a collection of paintings by Dutch masters of the seventeenth century. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration 1. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909: xxviii, 70, no. 69, repro., 155, 161.
1910
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Old Dutch Masters Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Connection with the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. New York, 1910: 16, 242, no. 69, repro. 243.
1910
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Die Ausstellung holländischer Gemälde in New York." Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft 3 (1910): 10.
1910
Wiersum, E. "Het schilderijen-kabinet van Jan Bisschop te Rotterdam." Oud Holland 28 (Summer 1910): 161-186.
1913
Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813–1912. 5 vols. London, 1913-1915: 2(1913):887, 891.
1913
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis, and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Pictures in the collection of P. A. B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early German, Dutch & Flemish Schools. Philadelphia, 1913: unpaginated, no. 28, repro.
1915
Hind, Arthur M. Catalogue of Drawings by Dutch and Flemish Artists Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. 5 vols. London, 1915–1932: 4(1931):17.
1923
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
1931
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 218, repro.
1938
Waldmann, Emil. "Die Sammlung Widener." Pantheon 22 (November 1938): 336.
1940
"Famous Widener Collection of Old Masters Given to the Nation." Art Digest 15 (1 November 1940): 11.
1948
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 55, repro.
1950
Musée de l'Orangerie. Le paysage hollandais au XVIIe siècle. Exh. cat. Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 1950: 60.
1959
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Reprint. Washington, DC, 1959: 55, repro.
1961
Bille, Clara. De tempel der Kunst; of, Het kabinet van den heer Braamcamp. 2 vols. Amsterdam, 1961: 1:105.
1965
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 98.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 86, repro.
1974
Buist, Marten G. At Spes Non Fracta: Hope & Co. 1770-1815: Merchant Bankers and Diplomats at Work. The Hague, 1974: 492.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 256-257, repro. 257.
1976
Hoet, Gerard. Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen. 3 vols. Reprint of 1752 ed. with supplement by Pieter Terwesten, 1770. Soest, 1976: 2:196, no. 2, 206, no. 84, 528.
1981
Niemeijer, J. W. "De kunstverzameling van John Hope (1737–1784)." Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 32 (1981): 192 fig. 16, 193, no. 180.
1981
Schnackenburg, Bernhard. Adriaen van Ostade, Isack van Ostade: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle: Gesamtdarstellung mit Werkkatalogen. 2 vols. Hamburg, 1981: 1:127.
1982
Clark, H. Nichols B. "A Fresh Look at the Art of Francis W. Edmonds: Dutch Sources and American Meanings." The American Art Journal 14 (Summer 1982): 78.
1982
Clark, H. Nichols B. "A Taste for the Netherlands: The Impact of Seventeenth-Century Dutch and Flemish Genre Painting on American Art, 1800–1860." The American Art Journal 14 (Spring 1982): 25, 26 fig. 2.
1984
Sutton, Peter C. Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting. Edited by Jane Iandola Watkins. Exh. cat. Philadelphia Museum of Art; Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin; Royal Academy of Arts, London. Philadelphia, 1984: no. 93, 288-289, repro. 288, color pl. 31.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 287, no. 375, color repro.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 295, repro.
1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 308-309.
1990
Broos, Ben P. J., ed. Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The Hague and Zwolle, 1990: 355-359, no. 47, color repro. 357, as Courtyard with a Woman Cleaning Mussels.
1993
Broos, Ben P. J., and Marijn Schapelhouman. Nederlandse tekenaars geboren tussen 1600 en 1660. Zwolle, 1993: 130-131, fig b.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 187-191, color repro. 189.
1997
Westermann, Mariët. The amusements of Jan Steen: comic painting in the seventeenth century. Studies in Netherlandish art and cultural history 1. Zwolle, 1997: 158-159, fig. 82.
1998
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. A Collector's Cabinet. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1998: 67, no. 43.
2002
Quodbach, Esmée. "The Last of the American Versailles: The Widener Collection at Lynnewood Hall." Simiolus 29, no. 1/2 (2002): 79-80, fig. 31.
2003
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. Facsimile edition of London 1854. London, 2003: 2:119, no.3.
2007
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., and Michael Swicklik. "Behind the Veil: Restoration of a Dutch Marine Painting Offers a New Look at Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art and History." National Gallery of Art Bulletin, no. 37 (Fall 2007): 4, fig. 3.
2011
Pergam, Elizabeth A. The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857: Entrepreneurs, Connoisseurs and the Public. Farnham and Burlington, 2011: 215, 231 n. 67, 313.
2011
Renouard de Bussiere, Sophie. "Joueurs de cornemuse et de vielle, devant une ferme par Adriaen van Ostade." L'Objet d'art no. 474 (December 2011): 20, color repro.

Technical Summary

The support is a moderately coarse-textured fabric, tightly woven in a plain weave. It has been lined with the tacking margins trimmed, but cusping visible in the X-radiograph indicates the dimensions have not been altered. The fabric weave is visible through the thick, smooth white ground.

The paint was applied in thin layers with no appreciable brushmarking or impasto. The vehicular pastes of the figures, architecture, and sky give way to fluid opaque washes in the foreground. Lean granular yellows and transparent green glazes were employed in the foliage. A pentimento is visible in the upper left tree.

The condition of the painting is excellent. Abrasion is slight, and losses are confined to the edges and an area of flaking around the foreground figures at right. In 1975 a double lining was removed and the support was relined. An aged surface coating was removed.

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The Cottage Dooryard
  • [fig. 1] Adriaen van Ostade, Pig Slaughtering in Peasant Village, 1673, pen and ink and watercolor, British Museum, London. Photo © Trustees of the British Museum
    Compare Image
  • [fig. 2] Adriaen van Ostade, The Cottage Dooryard, 1673, watercolor, Amsterdams Museum, Museum Fodor, Legacy Collection, Amsterdam 
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  • [1]

    Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlandtsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 3 vols. (The Hague, 1753; reprint, Amsterdam, 1976), 1:348. The poem by L. Rotgans, Boerekermis (Country Fair), was published in 1708. The identification of the poem was made by Broos in Ben P. J. Broos et al., Great Dutch Paint­ings from America (The Hague, 1990), 359.

  • [2]

    The drawings have been cataloged by Bernhard Schnackenburg, Adriaen van Ostade, Isack van Ostade: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle: Gesamtdarstellung mit Werkkatalogen, 2 vols. (Hamburg, 1981). For a discussion of Van Ostade’s use of drawings see Peter Schatborn in Douglas Lewis, The Drawings of Andrea Palladio (Washington, DC, 1981), 79–80.

  • [3]

    As Robinson has noted in Peter C. Sutton and Jane Iandola Watkins, Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Painting (Philadelphia, 1984), 289 n. 4, the image was inspired by Psalm 128: “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the side of thine house: thy children like olive plants round thy table.”

  • [4]

    Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlandtsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 3 vols. (The Hague, 1753; reprint, Amsterdam, 1976), 1:347–348. “Als ook de beeltjes in hunne bekleeding, en allerhande bedryven, zoo natuurlyk boers en geestig, dat het om to verwonderen is; hoc hy ‘t heft weten to bedenken.”

  • [5]

    Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlandtsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 3 vols. (The Hague, 1753; reprint, Amsterdam, 1976), 1:347. Houbraken writes that Van Ostade left Haarlem for Amsterdam in 1662, but the explicit mention of the French invasion in his sentence makes it clear that he meant to write 1672.

  • [6]

    Bernhard Schnackenburg, Adriaen van Ostade, Isack van Ostade: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle: Gesamtdarstellung mit Werkkatalogen, 2 vols. (Hamburg, 1981), 1:41, 73 n. 111a, lists more than fifty such watercolors from the period between 1672 and 1684, and suggests that Van Ostade’s technique was influenced by the watercolors of Hendrick Avercamp (1585–1634). Broos in Ben P. J. Broos et al., Great Dutch Paint­ings from America (The Hague, 1990), 359, has noted that Constantijn Sennepart (1625–1703), the art dealer with whom Van Ostade stayed in Amsterdam after he had fled Haarlem and who purportedly suggested to Van Ostade that he make such watercolors, owned drawings by Avercamp.

  • [7]

    Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlandtsche konstschilders en schilderessen, 3 vols. (The Hague, 1753; reprint, Amsterdam, 1976), 1:347.