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Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Meindert Hobbema/A Wooded Landscape/1663,” Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, NGA Online Editions, http://purl.org/nga/collection/artobject/68 (accessed November 28, 2014).

 

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Overview

Meindert Hobbema studied under the noted landscape artist Jacob van Ruisdael, and quite a few of his compositions evolved from the work of his erstwhile master. Hobbema approached nature in a straightforward manner, depicting picturesque, rural scenery enlivened by the presence of peasants or hunters. He often reused favorite motifs such as old watermills, thatch-roofed cottages, and embanked dikes, rearranging them into new compositions. Hobbema’s rolling clouds allow patches of sunshine to illuminate the rutted roads or small streams that lead back into rustic woods. All six of the National Gallery’s canvases by Hobbema share these characteristics.

Signed and dated 1663, A Wooded Landscape is one of Hobbema’s most harmonious compositions. Sunlight breaks through the billowing clouds, but the dense summer foliage provides cooling shade to the people on the road who have stopped to converse and to the angler lounging by the pond. Hobbema draws the viewer back into the forest with pools of light that accent distant foliage and tree trunks. A chalk and ink drawing by Hobbema of this wooded glade seems to indicate that the painting represents an actual location.

In the 1830s this painting was a prized possession of a benevolent Irish landowner, Charles Cobbe. According to his daughter, Cobbe sold the Hobbema and another painting in 1839 in order to make urgent repairs to tenants’ cottages on the estate. His daughter remembered the tears in her father’s eyes when the paintings were removed from the wall, but, she noted, "the sacrifice was completed, and eighty good stone and slate ‘Hobbema Cottages,’ as we called them, soon rose all over Glenasmoil." Hobbema would have been pleased to know that the sale of his painting created new housing for so many families.

Entry

In this idyllic view of the world, the season is summer, the foliage of the trees is dense and lush, sunlight breaks through the billowing clouds in soft pools of light to give warmth to the day, and men and women wander along paths, stopping to converse, or sit idly by a pool of water to fish. Hobbema’s view of A Wooded Landscape, one of his most harmonious compositions, has been highly praised since Smith first published it in 1835, when it was in the collection of Charles Cobbe.[1] Waagen, for example, wrote in 1854: “Seldom has the power of art in expressing the effect of the low afternoon sun in the light clouds in the sky, on tree, bush, and meadow, been exhibited with such astonishing power, transparency and freshness as in this picture.”[2]

Signed and dated 1663, this painting is among the first of Hobbema’s fully mature works. Here he has freed himself from the overt dependence on Jacob van Ruisdael (Dutch, c. 1628/1629 - 1682) evident in his compositions from the previous years, for example, The Travelers. The landscape is now open and spacious, the painterly touch more delicate and varied, and the palette considerably lighter than in earlier paintings. Hobbema draws the viewer back into the forest with pools of light that accent distant foliage and silhouette tree trunks rising before them, a device he more fully exploits in his later paintings, for example, Hut among Trees. He uses this technique effectively to enhance the recession into space of the small trees growing along the side of the dike in the right middle ground. Stechow has noted that the configuration of these trees, which he terms “tin-soldier trees,” relates back to Hobbema’s earliest compositions (for example, A River Scene, 1658, Detroit Institute of Arts).[3] One might thus argue that Hobbema was here sufficiently free of Ruisdael’s influence to reach back and draw upon motifs that were part of his repertoire before becoming Ruisdael’s student. The location of Hobbema’s scene is not known, although the close similarities to a drawing of this wooded glade attributed to Hobbema, formerly in the Emile Wolf Collection, New York (see the 1995 archived version of this entry), suggest that it is based upon an actual site. Hobbema also painted a second, slightly simplified version of the scene, now in the Wallace Collection [fig. 1].

When Smith published the painting in 1835, he indicated that it was a companion piece to the masterful landscape of the same dimensions and date now in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, and formerly in the collection of Sir Alfred Beit [fig. 2]. Both paintings have a distinctive signature in which Hobbema wrote out in full his complete name. At that time the Washington painting was in the collection of Charles Cobbe in Ireland, and the Beit painting was owned by an English politician, the Rt. Hon. Edward John Littleton (1791–1863), who was made 1st Baron Hatherton in 1835. No earlier provenance, however, exists to confirm that the paintings were ever together.[4] Both paintings can stand by themselves as independent creations and compositional parallels are not particularly strong. In the Dublin painting, moreover, the cows appear to be painted by Adriaen van de Velde (Dutch, 1636 - 1672), whereas no such collaboration with a staffage painter is evident in the Washington work. Smith’s statement must therefore be treated with some skepticism. Nevertheless, it should be stressed that we know so little of the types and character of seventeenth-century landscape pendants that his assertion cannot be totally discounted.[5]

The painting was clearly greatly appreciated by its owners, to judge by a fascinating account of the circumstances of its sale by Charles Cobbe in 1839, published by his daughter Frances Power Cobbe in 1894. She wrote as follows: “Though often hard pressed to carry out with a very moderate income all his projects of improvements, [my father] was never in debt. One by one he rebuilt or re-roofed almost every cottage on his estate, making what had been little better than pig-styes, fit for human habitation; and when he found that his annual rents could never suffice to do all that was required in this way for his tenants in his mountain property, he induced my eldest brother, then just of age, to join with him in selling two of the pictures which were the heirlooms of the family and the pride of the house, a Gaspar Poussin and a Hobbema, which last now adorns the walls of Dorchester House. I remember as a child seeing the tears in his eyes as this beautiful painting was taken out of the room in which it had been like a perpetual ray of sunshine. But the sacrifice was completed, and eighty good stone and slate ‘Hobbema Cottages,’ as we called them, soon rose all over Glenasmoil. Be it noted by those who deny every merit in an Anglo-Irish landlord, that not a farthing was added to the rent of the tenants who profited by this real act of self-denial.”[6] Hobbema would have been pleased to know that the sale of his painting created new housing for so many families.

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

April 24, 2014

Inscription

lower right: meijndert hobbema / F 1663

  • Inscription

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Thomas Cobbe [1733-1814], Newbridge House, Donabate, near Dublin, by 1770;[1] gift 1810, with the Cobbe estates and painting collection, to his grandson, Charles Cobbe [1782-1857]; sold 1839 through Michael Gernon to (Thomas Brown, London); sold 4 April 1840 to Robert Stayner Holford, M.P. [1808-1892], Dorchester House, London, and Westonbirt, Gloucestershire;[2] by inheritance to his son, Lieut.-Col. Sir George Lindsay Holford, K.C.V.O. [1860-1926];[3] purchased 1901 through (Charles Wertheimer, London) by J. Pierpont Morgan [1837-1913], New York;[4] by inheritance to his son, J.P. Morgan, Jr. [1867-1943], New York; consigned February 1935 to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); sold 13 December 1935 to Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 24 June 1937 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[5] gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1840
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1840, no. 22.
1851
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1851, no. 49.
1857
Art Treasures of the United Kingdom: Paintings by Ancient Masters, Art Treasures Palace, Manchester, 1857, no. 767.
1862
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1862, no. 3.
1887
Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1887, no. 59.
1900
Exhibition of Pictures by Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1900, no. 24.
1909
The Hudson-Fulton Celebration, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909, no. 48, repro.
1914
Loan Exhibition of the J. Pierpont Morgan Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1913-1916.
2001
Clerics and Connoisseurs: An Irish Art Collection through Three Centuries, The Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, London, 2001-2002, no. 24, repro.

Bibliography

1770
Pilkington, Matthew. The Gentleman's and Connoisseur's Dictionary of Painters. London, 1770: 288.
1829
Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 6(1835):149, no. 100; 9(1842):724-725, no. 18.
1840
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Catalogue of pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French and English masters: with which the proprietors have favoured the Institution. Exh. cat. British Institution, London, 1840: 8, no. 22.
1851
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Catalogue of pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French and English masters: with which the proprietors have favoured the institution. Exh. cat. British Institution, London, 1851: 10, no. 49.
1854
Jervis-White-Jervis, Lady Marian. Painting and Celebrated Painters, Ancient and Modern. 2 vols. London, 1854: 2:225, 344.
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: 2:202-203.
1857
Art Treasures of the United Kingdom. Exh. cat. Art Treasures Palace, Manchester, 1857: no. 767.
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: 291.
1859
Thoré, Théophile E. J. (William Bürger). "Hobbema." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 4 (October 1859): 34.
1860
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Handbook of Painting: The German, Flemish and Dutch Schools. 2 vols. London, 1860: 2:444.
1861
Blanc, Charles. "Minderhout Hobbema." in École hollandaise. 2 vols. Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles 1-2. Paris, 1861: 2:12 (each artist's essay paginated separately).
1862
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Catalogue of pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French and English masters: with which the proprietors have favoured the Institution. June 1862. Exh. cat. British Institution, London, 1862: no. 3.
1864
Scheltema, Pieter. "Meindert Hobbema: Quelques Renseignements sur ses Oeuvres et sa Vie." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 16 (March 1864): 216, 217.
1865
Thoré, Théophile E. J. (William Bürger). Trésors d’Art en Angleterre. 3rd ed. Paris, 1865: 291.
1887
Royal Academy of Arts. Exhibition of works by the old masters and by deceased masters of the British School: including a collection of water-colour drawings by Joseph M.W. Turner. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1887: 16, no. 59.
1890
Michel, Émile. Hobbema et les paysagistes de son temps en Hollande. Les Artistes Célèbres. Paris, 1890: 18, 50, 52.
1891
Cundall, Frank. The Landscape and Pastoral Painters of Holland: Ruisdael, Hobbema, Cuijp, Potter. Illustrated biographies of the great artists. London, 1891: 56-58, 157.
1894
Cobbe, Frances Power. Life of Francis Power Cobbe. 2 vols. Boston and New York, 1894: 1: 23-24.
1900
Burlington Fine Arts Club. Exhibition of pictures by Dutch masters of the seventeenth century. Exh. cat. Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1900: 26-27, no. 24.
1901
"In the Sale Room." The Connoisseur 1 (September–December 1901): 190.
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: 4(1912):412-413, no. 171.
1907
Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 4(1911):430, no. 171.
1907
Roberts, William. Pictures in the Collection of J. Pierpont Morgan at Princes Gate & Dover house. London, 1907: unpaginated, repro.
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: xxxi-xxxii, 49, no. 48, repro., 154, 160.
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: 18, 176, no. 48, repro. 177.
1910
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Die Ausstellung holländischer Gemälde in New York." Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft 3 (1910): 10.
1913
Bode, Wilhem von. Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures and Bronzes in the Possession of Mr. Otto Beit. London, 1913: 21, 76, no. 28, pl. 16.
1913
Burroughs, Bryson. "A Loan Exhibition of Mr. Morgan’s Paintings." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 8 (January 1913): 5-6, repro.
1913
Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813–1912. 5 vols. London, 1913-1915: 2(1913):516, no. 767.
1927
Benson, Robert H. The Holford Collection, Dorchester House. 2 vols. Oxford, 1927: 2:ix.
1930
Valentiner, Wilhelm R., ed. Unknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. London, 1930: n.p., pl. 59.
1937
Jewell, Edward Alden. "Mellon's Gift." Magazine of Art 30, no. 2 (February 1937): 73.
1938
Broulhiet, Georges. Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709). Paris, 1938: 68, 275, 424, no. 347, 373, pl. 581, repro. of signature.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 97, no. 61.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 240, repro. 26.
1949
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 98, repro.
1959
Stechow, Wolfgang. "The Early Years of Hobbema." Art Quarterly 22 (Spring 1959): 12, 15, fig. 13.
1960
MacLaren, Neil. The Dutch School. Text. National Gallery Catalogues. London, 1960: 170.
1965
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 67.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1: 248, color repro.
1966
Stechow, Wolfgang. Dutch Landscape Painting of the Seventeenth Century. Kress Foundation Studies in the History of European Art 1. London, 1966: 77, fig. 151.
1968
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 59, repro.
1975
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 174, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 295, no. 397, color repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 295, no. 390, color repro.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 202, repro.
1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 305-306.
1987
Sutton, Peter C. Masters of 17th-century Dutch landscape painting. Exh. cat. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art. Boston, 1987: 349 n 2.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 138, repro.
1995
Keyes, George S. "Meindert Hobbema's Wooded Landscape with a Water Mill." The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin 67 (1995): 43-44, fig. 2.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 117-120, color repro. 119.
1997
Hochstrasser, Julie Berger. “Inroads to Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape Painting.” Nederlands Kunshistorisch Jaarboek 48 (1997): 210, fig. 14. (As Road into a Forest.)
2001
Laing, Alastair ed. Clerics and Connoisseurs: The Rev. Matthew Pilkington, the Cobbe Family and the Fortunes of an Irish Art Collection Through Three Centuries. Exh. cat. The Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House, Hampstead. London, 2001: 9, 50-51, 71, 74, 87-89, 116, no. 24, color repro. 173, 373 n. 11 for Wheelock and Cobbe essay.
2003
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. Facsimile edition of London 1854. London, 2003: 2:202-203.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 212, no. 169, color repro.
2004
Keyes, George S., et al. Masters of Dutch Painting: The Detroit Institute of Arts. London, 2004: 110, fig. 2.
2011
Pergam, Elizabeth A. The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857: Entrepreneurs, Connoisseurs and the Public. Farnham and Burlington, 2011: 313.

Technical Summary

The support is a medium-weight, tightly and plain-woven fabric that has two lining fabrics attached to it. The original tacking margins were opened up and added to the picture plane, expanding the painting by approximately 0.5 cm on all sides. At some point in the painting’s history, this area was inpainted to incorporate it into the picture. The remainder of the original tacking margins as well as those of the first lining fabric have been removed. The stretcher is slightly larger than the painting and as a result the dimensions have been extended up to an additional 1.0 cm on all sides. The warm dark gray ground is a moderately thick layer. The paint was applied in a thin paste with vigorous brushwork. Low impasto is found in foliage and figure highlights. The ground continues onto the expanded areas around the edges, but the paint does not. The X-radiographs show a change in the lower left corner, where the artist painted out a small tree trunk.

A small L-shaped tear occurs in the clouds to the right of center. Small losses are confined to the tear and edges, and abrasion is minimal. There is a pronounced craquelure pattern in the sky, which is slightly disfiguring. Old newspaper on the back of the stretcher is dated December 1916. The painting was probably lined at that time. A second lining fabric was added when the painting was treated in 1941. In 1987, the painting was treated again to remove discolored varnish and inpainting, including the non-original paint that had been added to the opened-up tacking margins.

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A Wooded Landscape
  • Comparable Figure
    [fig. 1] Meindert Hobbema, A Wooded Landscape, c. 1663, oil on canvas, Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London
    Compare Image
  • Comparable Figure
    [fig. 2] Meindert Hobbema, Landscape with Cows and Travellers, 1663, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. Photo © National Gallery of Ireland
    Compare Image
  • [1]

    Smith’s 1835 entry for the painting consisted of only a brief description, but in his 1842 supplement he described the work in great detail and praised it lavishly, saying: “This brilliant epitome of Nature is justly entitled to the highest commendations, and is in truth an example of . . . rare occurrence.” (John Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, 9 vols. [London, 1829–1842], 9:725).

  • [2]

    Gustav Friedrich Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collection of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, and Illuminated Mss., 3 vols. (London 1854–1857), 2:203.

  • [3]

    Wolfgang Stechow, “The Early Years of Hobbema,” Arts Quarterly 22 (Spring 1959): 9, 15.

  • [4]

    Gregory Rubinstein has pointed out verbally that it is nonetheless possible that both paintings could have been together in Ireland in the early 1830s. Littleton was appointed chief secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland in 1833, and must therefore have spent a considerable amount of time there during this period. When it was in the Cobbe Collection, the Hobbema was paired with a landscape by Gaspard Dughet (French, 1615 - 1675). See Alastair Laing, ed., Clerics and Connoisseurs: An Irish Art Collection through Three Centuries (London, 2001), no. 40.

  • [5]

    A case in point is The Travelers and The Old Oak (discussed in the entry on The Travelers), which are apparently companion pieces, but whose commonality, other than dimensions and date, is essentially that the compositions were both derived from works by Jacob van Ruisdael.

  • [6]

    Frances Power Cobbe, Life of Frances Power Cobbe, 2 vols. (Boston and New York, 1894), 1:23–24. For further information on the “Hobbema Cottages” see Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and Alec Cobbe, “‘A Better Picture to the Christian Eye’: The Sale of Meindert Hobbema’s Wooded Landscape from Newbridge,” and Charles Sebag-Montefiore, “Collecting in Ireland in the 18th Century: The Historic Cobbe Collection in Context,” in Alastair Laing, ed., Clerics and Connoisseurs: An Irish Art Collection through Three Centuries (London, 2001), no. 24.