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.
The Farm in the Sunlight has long been esteemed as one of Hobbema’s finest paintings. It seems to have been one of a pair, its companion piece being The Mill, now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, but the paintings were separated at a sale in 1833. In addition to compositional and stylistic similarities, both paintings have a vertical format—rare in Hobbema’s work—strengthening the argument that they were pendants. The watermill in the Louvre painting has been identified as the mill of a country estate in the province of Overijssel, and the half-timbered farmhouse with the high-peaked roof in the Farm in the Sunlight is representative of the architecture of the eastern provinces. This refined painting covers a preliminary sketch that Hobbema executed rapidly in rough paint strokes; he then painted the sky first, leaving reserves for the trees and the landscape.
This rural landscape scene has long been esteemed as one of Hobbema’s finest paintings. In 1890 Michel described it as one of the artist’s most remarkable works and Bode, in the translation of his 1910 catalog, termed it “a masterpiece with which few can compare.”
Émile Michel, Hobbema et les paysagistes de son temps en Hollande (Paris, 1890), 49; Wilhelm von Bode, Die Gemäldegalerie des Herrn A. de Ridder in seiner Villa zu Schönberg bei Cronberg im Taunus (Berlin, 1910; English ed., trans. Harry Virgin, Berlin, 1913), 14.
Inv. no. 2404. John Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, 9 vols. (London, 1829–1842), 6:129, no. 53; Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts, 10 vols. (Esslingen and Paris, 1907–1928), 4:401–402, no. 89; Georges Broulhiet, Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709) (Paris, 1938), 441. The dimensions of the Louvre painting (80 x 66 cm) are similar to those of A Farm in the Sunlight.
As in other instances where pendant relationships in Hobbema’s work seems to exist, no irrefutable proof exists that these works were originally intended to be hung together, although compositional and stylistic similarities reinforce the historical evidence. In both paintings the focus of the composition is the sunlit farm buildings in the middle ground. The shaded large trees that occupy the foreground have long, flowing trunks surmounted by an open structure of branches and foliage. Their dark brownish green tones act as a foil to the yellow glow of the sunlit distance. Above all, the vertical formats of the paintings, rare among Hobbema’s works, argue for the hypothesis that they were pendants. Other artists, including
Compare his pair of dune landscapes at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, reproduced in Wolfgan Stechow, Salomon van Ruysdael: eine Einführung in seine Kunst (Berlin, 1938), cats. 35, 36, figs. 48, 49.
The vertical format was one of the factors considered by Jakob Rosenberg when he assigned this work a date of around or after 1670. Rosenberg also argued for a late date on the basis of the transparency of the upper parts of the trees, the exaggeration of specific Hobbema effects, and the reduction of the corporeality of the landscape.
Jakob Rosenberg, “Hobbema,” Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen 48, no. 3 (1927): 151.
The watermill in the Louvre painting has been identified as that belonging to the manor house of Singraven near Denekamp in the province of Overijssel.
Karl Döhmann and W. H. Dingeldein, Singraven: de Geschiedenis van een Twentsche Havezate, 4 vols. (Brussels, 1934), 3:144–145.
Finally, as is typical of Hobbema’s paintings, the figural group in the foreground is probably by another hand. The names of Abraham Storck (1644–after 1708) and
John Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, 9 vols. (London, 1829–1842), 6:129 (under no. 53), said the figures are by Storck. Théophile E. J. Thoré (William Bürger), “Hobbema,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 4 (October 1859): 35, said they were “attributed to Adriaen van der Velde, but they are not by him.”
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
lower right, remnants of a signature and date: ..bbema .668
R. van Smidt, Brussels. Corneille Louis Reijnders [d. 1821], Brussels, possibly by 1788; (William Buchanan, London); purchased 1817 by George Watson Taylor, M.P. [d. 1841], London and later Erlestoke Park, Devizes, Wiltshire; (his sale, Christie's, London, 13-14 June 1823, 2nd day, no. 56, bought in); (Taylor sale, at Erlestoke Park by Robins, 9 July - 1 August 1832, 14th day [July 24], no. 69); (Charles J. Nieuwenhuys, Brussels and London); (his sale, Christie & Manson, London, 10-11 May 1833, no. 128, bought in). (Henri Héris [b. 1790], Brussels); Leopold I, King of Belgium [1790-1865], Palais Royal, Brussels, by 1839; by inheritance to his son, Leopold II, King of Belgium [1835-1909], Brussels; purchased May 1909 with paintings from the royal collection by (F. Kleinberger & Co., Paris and New York); sold 1910 to August de Ridder [1837-1911], Schönberg, near Frankfurt-am-Main; (his estate sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 2 June 1924, no. 26); (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); sold December 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.
- British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1818, no. 84.
- L'Exposition de Tableaux, Palais de S.A.R. le Duc de Brabant, Brussels, 1855, no. 1 in room B.
- Ausstellung der De Ridder Sammlung, Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1911-1913, no catalogue.
- The Collection of Pictures of the late Herr A. de Ridder, Formerly in his Villa at Shönberg near Cronberg in the Taunus, F. Kleinberger Galleries, New York, 1913, no. 60, repro.
- Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century, Knoedler Galleries, New York, 1925, no. 17, repro.
- El Siglo de Oro del Paisaje Holandés [The Golden Age of Dutch Landscape], Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 1994-1995, no. 32, repro.
- British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom. Catalogue of pictures of the Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, and French schools. Exh. cat. British Institution. London, 1818: 15, no. 84.
- Buchanan, William. Memoirs of Painting. 2 vols. London, 1824: 2:303.
- Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 6(1835):128-129, no. 52.
- Nieuwenhuys, Charles J. A Review of the Lives and Works of Some of the Most Eminent Painters. London, 1834: 138-139.
- Héris, Henri. "Sur la Vie et les Ouvrages de Meindert Hobbema." La Renaissance: Chronique des Arts et de la Littérature 54 (1839): 5–7.
- L'Exposition de Tableaux. Exh. cat. Palais de S.A.R. le Duc de Brabant. Brussels, 1855: no. 1 in Room B.
- 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: 287.
- Thoré, Théophile E. J. (William Bürger). "Hobbema." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 4 (October 1859): 35, 38.
- Scheltema, Pieter. "Meindert Hobbema: Quelques Renseignements sur ses Oeuvres et sa Vie." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 16 (March 1864): 219 n. 3.
- Michel, Émile. Hobbema et les paysagistes de son temps en Hollande. Les Artistes Célèbres. Paris, 1890: 24, 49.
- Cundall, Frank. The Landscape and Pastoral Painters of Holland: Ruisdael, Hobbema, Cuijp, Potter. Illustrated biographies of the great artists. London, 1891: 155.
- Lafenestre, Georges, and Eugéne Richtenberger. La Belgique. Paris, 1895: 132.
- Roberts, William. Memorials of Christie's: A record of art sales from 1766 to 1896. 2 vols. London, 1897: 1:106.
- Michel, Émile. Les maïtres du paysage. Paris, 1906: 207.
- 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):362, no. 28.
- 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):379, no. 28.
- Holmes, Charles John. "Pictures Lately in the Collection of the King of the Belgians." The Burlington Magazine 15 (February 1909): 238-243, repro.
- Roberts, William. "The King of the Belgians’ Collection of Old Masters." The Connoisseur 24 (August 1909): 203-210, repro.
- Wauters, Alphonse Jules. Les Collections de Tabelaux du Roi des Belges. Brussels, 1909: 5.
- Bode, Wilhelm von. Die gemäldegalerie des herrn A. de Ridder in seiner villa zu Schönberg bei Cronberg im Taunus. Berlin, 1910: 30.
- Michel, Émile. Great Masters of Landscape Painting. London, 1910: 164.
- Bode, Wilhelm von. The collection of pictures of the late Herr A. de Ridder in his villa at Schönberg near Cronberg in the Taunus. Translated by H. Virgin. Berlin, 1913: 14, pl. 60.
- Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813–1912. 5 vols. London, 1913-1915: 2(1913):514, no. 136.
- Catroux, R. Claude. Catalogue des Tableaux anciens composant la Galerie de M. A. de Ridder. Paris, 1924: unpaginated, no. 26, repro.
- M. Knoedler & Co. Loan Exhibition of Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century. Exh. cat. M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1925: no. 17, repro.
- Rosenberg, Jakob. "Hobbema." Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen 48, no. 3 (1927): 151.
- Broulhiet, Georges. Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709). Paris, 1938: 52-53, 326, 437, no. 449, repro.
- Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 97, no. 60.
- National Gallery of Art. Book of illustrations. 2nd ed. Washington, 1942: no. 60, repro. 26, 240.
- National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 100, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 67.
- Stechow, Wolfgang. Dutch Landscape Painting of the Seventeenth Century. Kress Foundation Studies in the History of European Art 1. London, 1966: 78-79.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 60, repro.
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- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 295, no. 396, color repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 295, no. 389, color repro.
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- Sutton, Peter C., and John Loughman. El Siglo de Oro del Paisaje Holandés/The Golden Age of Dutch Landscape Paintings. Exh. cat. Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 1994: 132-134, no. 32, repro.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 127-130, color repro. 129.
- Tellier, Geneviève É. Léopold II et le marché de l'art américain: histoire d'une vente singulière. Nouvelle histoire de Belgique 1909. Bruxelles, 2010: 241-250.
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The support, a fine-weight, plain-weave fabric, has been lined with part of the tacking margins folded out and incorporated into the picture plane, slightly enlarging the original dimensions. A dark reddish brown ground layer was applied overall, followed by a light brown underpainting in the foreground, which also serves as a mid-tone. The X-radiographs show a preliminary sketch rapidly executed in rough paint strokes with a loaded brush. Pentimenti are visible in the largest tree, whose trunk initially continued down to the figures and whose foliage extended higher. The figures in the foreground may have been repositioned and an additional figure group may have been removed.
Paint was applied in thin paste layers, with the foreground, middle ground, and background blocked in with vigorous strokes and individual features added with smaller brushes. The sky was painted first, with reserves left for the trees and landscape. Background elements are worked wet-into-wet, while middle-distance reserves were left for barns and trees. Figures lie over the thinly painted foreground. Scattered small losses and abraded areas exist, along with two extremely large horizontal losses across the lower foreground. Conservation was carried out in 1992 to remove discolored varnish, inpainting, and nineteenth-century overpaint in the foreground. At that time foreground losses were inpainted, re-creating missing landscape details.
 The NGA Scientific Research department analyzed the pigments using air-path X-ray Fluorescence spectroscopy and found elements consistent with the pigments used in the figures in the area where the tree trunks are now lying and in the area of the fence to the right of the figures (see report dated January 6, 1992 in NGA Conservation department files).
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