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Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Meindert Hobbema/A View on a High Road/1665,” Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, NGA Online Editions, (accessed October 27, 2016).


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Apr 24, 2014 Version
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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.

In this work, the dirt road meanders diagonally through the village, passing half-timbered houses nestled among the trees. Figures strolling along the road or resting beside it are integrated harmoniously into this peaceful pastoral setting. Hobbema often had other artists paint staffage figures in his works. The elegantly dressed couple walking along the road was painted by one such unidentified collaborator. The idyllic qualities of Hobbema’s scenes, combined with the realistic effects of light and atmosphere, appealed tremendously to English collectors. In the nineteenth century, this painting along with its possible pendant (now in the Mauritshuis, The Hague), belonged to the collection of the Duke of Westminster.


Hobbema’s style developed very rapidly throughout the 1660s. By the middle of the decade he had opened his compositions to give a light-filled and spacious feeling to his scenes. This painting, signed and dated 1665, is an excellent example of this period of his work.[1] The road that passes through the rural village meanders diagonally into the distance, passing half-timbered houses that sit comfortably within the wooded landscape. The trees, which in earlier works form dense barriers in the middle distance (see A Wooded Landscape), rise only to the left of center. Otherwise, Hobbema has kept them low and relegated them to the peripheries of his scene. To judge from the patterns of light and shade, it seems to be midday. Villagers sit and relax beside the road or talk over the front stoop. Two children play with boats at a small pond beside the road, along which a mounted falconer and his attendant pass into the distance. In the center foreground an elegant couple, the man holding a stick, passes near a traveler with his knapsack resting on a cut log.

Hobbema lived and worked in Amsterdam, yet with only a few exceptions, his paintings represent rural scenes, most of which have never been precisely identified. As in many of his paintings, the half-timbered buildings with their tie-beam construction seen in this small village are characteristic of the vernacular architecture in the eastern provinces of the Netherlands, in the border area between the river Twente in the province of Overijssel and the western part of the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen.[2] Two paintings by Hobbema containing buildings of this type have been identified as representing watermills that belonged to the manor house of Singraven near Denekamp, a Dutch village in Overijssel.[3] It seems probable that he derived many of his scenes (see also A Farm in the Sunlight) from visits to this area in the company of his teacher Jacob van Ruisdael (Dutch, c. 1628/1629 - 1682), who is known to have visited Overijssel on his trip to Bentheim in the early 1650s.[4] It is not known if Hobbema also made separate trips to this region, but buildings of this type first appear in his work around 1662 (as in The Travelers).

Part of the difficulty in identifying the exact location of such a view is that Hobbema freely varied architectural motifs and the placements of buildings within his works. Although this painting convinces the viewer of its fidelity to nature through the careful observation of light, gentle flow of the landscape, and attention to architectural detail, a smaller variant in the Frick Collection, New York, from the same year, A Village among Trees, differs in many respects [fig. 1]. While the general disposition of elements in the two paintings is extremely close, the relative scale, placement, and structural elements of the buildings are not identical. Both of these paintings, moreover, essentially elaborate upon a composition now in the Louvre, Paris, that Hobbema painted in 1662.[5]

Another similar composition, A Wooded Landscape with Cottages [fig. 2], in the Mauritshuis, The Hague, has been traditionally considered a companion piece to A View on a High Road.[6] The paintings hung as such in the Fizeau, Agar, and Grosvenor collections until the Washington painting was sold to Alfred Charles de Rothschild at the end of the nineteenth century. It is highly unlikely, however, that they were actually designed as pendants, for the compositions are parallel rather than complementary; the dimensions are also slightly different.

The presence of the elegantly dressed couple strolling on the road through the village is an unusual feature of the Washington painting. Hobbema did not usually include such figures in his paintings. Whether they represent country gentry or city visitors, vast differences exist between their social status and that of the peasants seated by the edge of the road. Curiously, given their importance within the composition, these figures are rather poorly painted; they float above the surface of the road and lack physical substance. They were apparently executed by a different staffage painter than the one who depicted the peasants, who have a greater sense of solidity. Although the names Adriaen van de Velde (Dutch, 1636 - 1672) and Johannes Lingelbach (1622–1674) have been suggested, the style of the peasants and the elegant couple does not resemble that of either artist.[7] The figures were present in 1786 when the painting was engraved, in reverse, by James Mason.[8]

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

April 24, 2014


lower left: m. hobbema. / 1665



Mme Jean Etienne Fizeau [née Marie Anne Massé, d. 1790], Amsterdam; (sale, Amsterdam, 27 April 1791);[1] Welbore Ellis Agar [1735-1805]; by inheritance to his two illegitimate sons, Welbore Felix Agar and Emmanuel Felix Agar; sold 1806 to Robert Grosvenor, 1st marquess of Westminster [1767-1845];[2] by inheritance to his grandson, Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 1st duke of Westminster [1825-1899], Grosvenor House, London; purchased 1912 by Baron Alfred Charles de Rothschild [1842-1918], London and Halton House, near Wendover, Buckinghamshire;[3] bequeathed to his illegitimate daughter, Almina Victoria, Countess of Carnarvon [c. 1877-1969, later Mrs. Ian Onslow Dennistoun], London; sold 1924 to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris);[4] sold November 1924 to Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded 28 December 1934 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1834, either no. 136 or no. 139.
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1845, either no. 49 or no. 52.
Works of Old Masters, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1871, either no. 35 or no. 41.[1]
A Loan Exhibition of Dutch Paintings, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1925, no. 11.
Paintings by Old Masters from Pittsburgh Collections, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1925, no. 28.
Exhibition History Notes

[1] Exhibition records for the two paintings are confusing, as two Hobbemas from the Grosvenor collection were lent to exhibitions in London in 1834, 1845, and 1871 (see Algernon Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813–1912, 5 vols. [London, 1913–1915], 3:514, 515, 517). In each of the exhibition catalogues the paintings are given nearly identical titles, and there are no descriptions provided. Frank Cundall, The Landscape and Pastoral Painters of Holland: Ruisdael, Hobbema, Cuijp, Potter (London, 1891), 158, mentions the 1845 and 1871 exhibitions under his listing for A View on a High Road and its pendant. Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century, trans. Edward G. Hawke, 8 vols. (London, 1907–1927), does not mention these exhibitions under either picture.

Young, John. A Catalogue of the Pictures at Grosvenor House, London. London, 1820: 37, no. 109, etched repro.
Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 6(1835):134–135, no. 65.
British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Exh. cat. British Institution, London, 1834: either no. 136 or no. 139.
Young, John. Catalogue of the Marquess of Westminster's collection of pictures in Grosvenor House. London, 1840: 37, no. 109, etched repro.
Jameson, Anna Brownell Murphy. Companion to the Most Celebrated Private Galleries of Art in London. London, 1844: 266, no. 99.
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, 1845: either no. 49 or no. 52.
Jervis-White-Jervis, Lady Marian. Painting and Celebrated Painters, Ancient and Modern. 2 vols. London, 1854: 2:225, 344.
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: 2:166.
Thoré, Théophile E. J. (William Bürger). "Hobbema." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 4 (October 1859): 33.
Blanc, Charles. "Isaac Ostade" (vol. 1) and "Minderhout Hobbema" (vol. 2). In École hollandaise. 2 vols. Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles 1-2. Paris, 1861: 1:10; 2:12 (each artist's essay paginated separately).
Burlington Fine Arts Club. Exhibition of the works of Old Masters. Exh. cat. Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1871: either no. 35 or no. 41.
Michel, Émile. Hobbema et les paysagistes de son temps en Hollande. Les Artistes Célèbres. Paris, 1890: 19, 50.
Cundall, Frank. The Landscape and Pastoral Painters of Holland: Ruisdael, Hobbema, Cuijp, Potter. Illustrated biographies of the great artists. London, 1891: 58, 158.
Wurzbach, Alfred von. Niederlandisches Kunstler-Lexikon. 3 vols. Vienna, 1906-1911: 1(1906):691.
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):394-395, no. 121.
Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813–1912. 5 vols. London, 1913-1915: 2(1913):515 or 517, nos. 49, 52, or 35.
Carnegie Institute. An Exhibition of Paintings by Old Masters from the Pittsburgh Collections. Exh. cat. Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1925: no. 28.
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Loan Exhibition of Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. Exh. cat. Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1925: no. 11.
Rosenberg, Jakob. "Meindert Hobbema: Country Road with Houses and Trees on Either Side." In Unknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. Edited by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. London, 1930: no. 59, repro.
Rosenberg, Jakob. "Meindert Hobbema: Country Road with Houses and Trees on Either Side." In Unknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. Wilhelm R. Valentiner, ed. London, 1930: n.p., pl. 59.
Frankfurter, Alfred M. "Masterpieces of Landscape Painting in American Collections." The Fine Arts 18, no. 1 (December 1931): 27, repro.
Döhmann, Karl, and W. H. Dingeldein. Singraven: de Geschiedenis van een Twentsche Havezate. 4 vols. Brussels, 1934: 3:144-145.
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 338, no. 194, repro.
Broulhiet, Georges. Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709). Paris, 1938: 59, 196, 401, no. 189, repro.
Tietze, Hans. Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 322, no. 194, repro.
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 97-98, no. 62.
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 240, repro. 27.
National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 99, repro.
Baird, Thomas P. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art 7. Washington, 1960: 22, color repro.
National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 68.
Stechow, Wolfgang. Dutch Landscape Painting of the Seventeenth Century. Kress Foundation Studies in the History of European Art 1. London, 1966: 78.
Frick Collection. The Frick Collection: An Illustrated Catalogue. 2 vols. Vol. 1, Paintings: American, British, Dutch, Flemish and German. New York, 1968: 1:224.
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 59, repro.
Fitzwilliam Museum. Landscapes from the Fitzwilliam. Exh. cat. Hazlitt Gooden & Fox, London. Cambridge, 1974: 32.
National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975:174, repro.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 295, no. 398, color repro.
Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 77, pl. 65.
Robertson, Alexander, and Christopher Wright. Dutch Seventeenth Century Paintings from Yorkshire Public Collections. Exh. cat. Leeds City Art Gallery. Leeds, 1982: 16.
Hanhisalo, Judith Evans. Enjoying art: painting, sculpture, architecture, and the decorative arts. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1983: 156-157, fig. 111.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 295, no. 391, color repro.
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1984: 38-39, color repro.
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 202, repro.
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: 347.
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 138, repro.
Minor, Vernon Hyde. Art history's History. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1994: 118, fig. 20.
Keyes, George S. "Meindert Hobbema's Wooded Landscape with a Water Mill." The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin 67 (1995): 48, fig. 7.
Ploeg, Peter van den. Meindert Hobbema: Wooded landscape with cottages - A major acquisition for the Netherlands. The Hague, 1995: unpaginated brochure, fig. 6.
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 123-127, color repro. 125.
Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. Translated by Elizabeth Rigby Eastlake. Facsimile edition of London 1854. London, 2003: 2:166.
Wiemann, Elsbeth, Jenny Gaschke, and Mona Stocker. Die Entdeckung der Landschaft: Meisterwerde der niederländischen Kunst des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts. Exh. cat. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Cologne, 2005: 109, no. 37, repro.
Technical Summary

The support, a fine-weight, plain-weave fabric, has been lined with the top tacking margin trimmed. At some point or points during the painting’s history, the painted canvas along the top edge was twice folded over the stretcher to serve as a tacking margin. This edge was then later restored to the picture plane, while the original tacking margins on the bottom, left, and right sides were unfolded and added to the picture plane. The present dimensions are thus slightly expanded at the bottom and sides.

A thin, reddish ground layer is covered by a pale brown imprimatura, which has been incorporated as a mid-tone in the sky and foreground. On top of this base, the design was sketched in thin dark paint, which was allowed to remain visible in the shadows. Then the paint was built up in thin pastes. The sky was painted first with reserves left for the houses and trees. The landscape was completed before the foreground figures were added. The gabled house at far right was made smaller, and the tree to the right of the pathway was shifted slightly.

Thin bands of loss occur along fold lines and around tacking holes. The paint is rather abraded in the sky. In 1995 the painting was treated to remove discolored varnish and inpainting. At that time the sky was rather extensively inpainted to cover the abrasion.

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