Aert [Aernout] van der Neer was probably born in Amsterdam. Documents from later in his life indicate that he was born in 1603 or 1604; the names of his parents are not known. He spent his youth near Gorinchem in the south of the Netherlands, where he most likely trained with the landscape painter Rafael Govertsz Camphuysen (c. 1597/1598–1657). By 1632 Van der Neer was living in Amsterdam, where he had moved shortly after his marriage to Lysbeth Goverts. The couple’s children were all born there. One son, Eglon van der Neer (1634–1703), became a painter.
Aert van der Neer’s pictures did not fetch high prices, and therefore in 1659 the artist was forced to supplement his income by working as the proprietor of an Amsterdam tavern called “de Graeff van Hollant.” His career as a wyntapper failed three years later, and on December 12, 1662, he declared bankruptcy. The inventory of his possessions made at the time indicates that most of his paintings were appraised at the low price of five guilders or less. He lived in impoverished conditions during the last years of his life and died in Amsterdam on November 9, 1677.
Van der Neer’s earliest known painting, dated 1632 (Národní Galerie, Prague), is a genre scene, a type of subject he did not depict again. During the early years of his career, he painted realistic tonal landscapes and winter scenes inspired by Camphuysen, Esaias van de Velde I (Dutch, c. 1590 - 1630), and Hendrick Avercamp (Dutch, 1585 - 1634). By the 1640s, Van der Neer had begun to specialize in nocturnes, the earliest known of which is dated 1643. It is with his representations of moonlit and snowy landscapes that Van der Neer distinguished himself as one of the most important and innovative Dutch landscape painters. The Dutch cities and villages found in his evocative nocturnal scenes appear extremely realistic, but these views, as well as his woodland and winter scenes, are, in fact, fanciful re-creations of the Dutch countryside.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
Houbraken, Arnold. De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders en Schilderessen. 3 vols. in 1. The Hague, 1753 (Reprint: Amsterdam, 1976): 3:172.
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: 7(1923):323-473.
Bachmann, Fredo. Die Landschaften des Aert van der Neer. Neustadt, 1966.
Stechow, Wolfgang. Dutch Landscape Painting of the Seventeenth Century. National Gallery of Art Kress Foundation Studies in the History of European Art, no. 1. London, 1966: 96-98, 176-182.
Bachmann, Fredo. "Die Brüder Rafel und Jochem Camphuysen und ihr Verhältnis zu Aert van der Neer." Oud Holland 85 (1970):243-250.
Bachmann, Fredo. Aert van der Neer. Bremen, 1982.
Sutton, Peter C., et al. Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape Painting. Exh. cat. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art. Boston, 1987: 381-387.
MacLaren, Neil. The Dutch School, 1600-1900. Revised and expanded by Christopher Brown. 2 vols. National Gallery Catalogues. London, 1991: 1:275.
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1995: 181-182.
Schulz, Wolfgang. Aert van der Neer. Aetas aurea 18. Doornspijk, 2002.