This bucolic landscape depicts two horsemen who have stopped on a small rise overlooking a broad river valley to ask local herdsmen for directions. With figures and cattle silhouetted against an expansive sky and late afternoon light bathing the scene in a golden glow, the painting conveys the sense of peace and tranquility that pervaded the Netherlands after the signing of the Treaty of Münster in 1648 that ended the war against Spain and finally established the Dutch Republic.
This highly evocative landscape is based on a real place: the valley of the Rhine River near the towns of Cleves and Calcar, not far from the Dutch border. Cuyp had visited this broad river valley in the early 1640s and recorded his impressions of its towns, churches, and windmills in a series of panoramic drawings that were once part of a sketchbook. When Cuyp painted this work, he referred to one of his drawings of the town of Calcar, which housed the ruins of the castle of the dukes of Cleves, seen here in the far distance behind the haze. Nevertheless, atmosphere, not topography, was Cuyp’s primary concern, and the result is this quiet, reflective image of an Arcadian Dutch countryside.
In this beautifully preserved, luminous work two horsemen have stopped on a small rise overlooking a broad river valley to ask local herdsmen for directions. The moment is one of little narrative significance, yet the low vantage point and the quiet dignity of the figures and cattle silhouetted against the blue sky give the scene a monumental grandeur far greater than the painting’s modest scale might seem to warrant. The golden light of the late afternoon sun further enhances the pastoral mood as it softens the landscape in the distance and casts a quiet, peaceful spell over the scene, a veritable Dutch Arcadia.
For a discussion of Aelbert Cuyp and the Dutch Arcadia, see Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Aelbert Cuyp and the Depiction of the Dutch Arcadia,” in Aelbert Cuyp (Washington, DC, 2001), 15–33.
This evocative landscape is one of several similarly serene scenes depicting herdsmen tending cattle that Cuyp painted in the late 1640s and early 1650s, shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Münster in 1648 that ended the Dutch Revolt. This bucolic image conveys the aura of peace and pastoral well-being that must have been strongly felt after the 80 years of struggle leading to the formation of the Dutch Republic. Dairy cows, whose creamy milk yielded the cheeses and butter that were important to the Dutch economy, represented the wholesome prosperity of the Dutch nation, and this concept may underlie the significance Cuyp has given to the herd in this work.
Joaneath Spicer, “‘De Koe voor d’aede staat’: The Origin of the Dutch Cattle Piece,” in Essays in Northern European Art Presented to Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann on His Sixtieth Birthday, ed. Anne-Marie Logan (Doornspijk, 1983), 251–256. For the symbolism of the cow in Dutch art, see: Alan Chong, “‘In ‘t verbeelden van Slachtdieren,’” in Meesterlijk Vee: Nederlandse veeschilders, 1600–1700, ed. C. Boschma (Zwolle, 1988), 56–86.
See Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Aelbert Cuyp (Washington, DC, 2001), 271, no. 103.
This observation was made by Sjraar van Heugten, “Grazende modellen: Aspecten van het Nederlandse veestuk,” in Meesterlijk Vee: Nederlandse veeschilders, 1600–1700, ed. C. Boschma (Zwolle, 1988), 23.
Cuyp’s paintings of the early 1640s are often tonal landscapes of the Dutch countryside similar to those made by
The evolution in Cuyp’s style is evident in a comparison of this painting of the mid-1650s with his
Although this author dated this painting c. 1650–1652 in Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Aelbert Cuyp (Washington, DC, 2001), 142, no. 25, the exhibition revealed that a later date was more appropriate.
Despite the evocative quality of Landscape with Herdsmen, the setting is based on a real place: the valley of the Rhine River near the towns of Cleves and Calcar, not far from the Dutch border. In the early 1640s, when Cuyp first visited this broad river valley dotted with towns, churches, and windmills, he recorded his impressions in a series of large panoramic drawings that were once part of a sketchbook. Years later, when Cuyp painted Landscape with Herdsmen, he referred to one of these drawings: a view of Calcar with Monterberg, a hill on which stood the ruins of the castle of the dukes of Cleves, rising in the distance
For copies after this work, see Alan Chong, “Aelbert Cuyp and the Meaning of Landscape” (PhD diss., New York University, 1992), 373–375, no. 133. See also: sale, Christie, Manson & Woods Ltd., London, July 12, 1985, no. 106.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
June 30, 2017
lower right: A. cuyp. .
Probably (sale, by J. A. Jolles and H. de Winter, Amsterdam, 23 May 1764, no. 41, bought in). C. Price, London; Frederick Howard, 5th earl of Carlisle [1748-1825], London, and Castle Howard, Yorkshire, by 1771; by descent in the Howard family to George James Howard, 9th earl of Carlisle [1843-1911], London and Castle Howard; purchased September 1907 by (P. & D. Colnaghi, London), half share with (M. Knoedler & Co., London and New York); sold July 1909 to William Andrews Clark [1839-1925], New York; bequest 1926 to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by the National Gallery of Art.
- Probably Pictures by Rubens, Rembrandt, VanDyke, and other Artists of the Flemish and Dutch Schools, British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1815, no. 57.
- Probably Pictures of the Italian, Spanish, Flemish, and Dutch Schools, British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1822, no. 136 or no. 138.
- Probably Pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, and Dutch Masters, British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1828, no. 83.
- Probably Pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French and English Masters, British Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts in the United Kingdom, London, 1853, no. 7.
- Possibly Royal Dublin Society, 1861, no. 61, as Cattle Piece.
- Loan Exhibition. Masterpieces of the Corcoran Gallery of Art: A Benefit Exhibition in Honor of the Gallery's Centenary, Wildenstein, New York, 1959, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- The William A. Clark Collection: An exhibition marking the 50th Anniversary of the installation of The Clark Collection at The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, no catalogue.
- Aelbert Cuyp, National Gallery of Art, Washington; The National Gallery, London; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2001-2002, no. 25, repro.
Exhibition History Notes
 The early exhibition history references are all tentative, as the Earl of Carlisle owned six paintings attributed to Cuyp, several depicting cattle and horsemen, and the exhibition catalogues provide no detailed descriptions or size information.
 Lent by George William Frederick Howard, 7th earl of Carlisle (1802-1864), this painting could be the NGA painting; see Alan Chong, “Aelbert Cuyp and the Meaning of Landscape,” Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1992: 375 n. 2.
- Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 5(1834):309, no. 93.
- "The British Institution. The Old Masters.” The Art-Journal 5 (July 1853): 173.
- 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: 2(1909):129, no. 424.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 2(1908):123, no. 424.
- Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813-1912. 5 vols. London, 1913-1915: 1(1913):240, no. 57; 241, no. 136 or 138; 242, no. 83; 244, no. 7.
- Carroll, Dana H. Catalogue of Objects of Fine Art and Other Properties at the Home of William Andrews Clark, 962 Fifth Avenue. Part I. Unpublished manuscript, n.d. (1925): 134, no. 74.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Illustrated Handbook of the W.A. Clark Collection. Washington, 1928: 38.
- Holmes, Jerrold. "The Cuyps in America." Art in America 18, no. 4 (June 1930): 185, no. 31.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Illustrated Handbook of The W.A. Clark Collection. Washington, 1932: 43, no. 2063, as Landscape with Cattle, Shepherd and Horses.
- Breckenridge, James D. A handbook of Dutch and Flemish paintings in the William Andrews Clark collection. Washington, 1955: 11, repro.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Masterpieces of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Washington, 1959: 14, repro.
- Dattenberg, Heinrich. Niederrheinansichten holländischer Künstler des 17. Jahrhunderts. Die Kunstdenkmäler des Rheinlands 10. Düsseldorf, 1967: 74, no. 82.
- Reiss, Stephen. Aelbert Cuyp. Boston, 1975: 126, no. 89, repro.
- Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 299, fig. 451.
- Heugten, Siraar van. "Grazende modellen: Aspecten van het Nederlandse veestuk.” In Meesterlijk Vee: Nederlandse Veeschilders 1600–1900. Edited by C. Boschma. Exh. cat. Dordrechts Museum; Fries Museum, Leeuwarden. Zwolle, 1988: 23-24, repro.
- Chong, Alan. "Aelbert Cuyp and the Meanings of Landscape." Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1992: 373-375, no. 133.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 48, 50 n. 13, as Five Cows, Herdsmen and Two Riders..
- Coyle, Laura, and Dare Myers Hartwell, eds. Antiquities to Impressionism: The William A. Clark Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art. Washington, DC, 2001: 22-23, 67, repro.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Aelbert Cuyp. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; National Gallery, London; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Washington, 2001: no. 25, 142-143, 197-198, repro.
The painting was executed on a horizontally grained oak (est.) panel with the top, bottom, and right edges of the panel beveled on the reverse. In a past treatment by Stephen Pichetto, a cradle was adhered to the reverse after applying fill material and wooden inserts to compensate for the bevels. It is likely that the reverse was slightly thinned prior to the application of the cradle.
The support was prepared with a double ground, with the bottommost layer off-white in color and the top layer tan. The paint is fairly smooth, with only low impasto in the details of the foliage in the foreground. The sky was painted in first, leaving reserves for the figures and animals, which were likely blocked in with black paint, evidenced by the dark shapes visible in the X-radiograph. The paint was applied in stages, wet-over-dry, though some areas such as the landscape and foreground were painted wet-into-wet, overlapping the drier paint of the sky and animals below.
The paint layers are in good condition and the panel is structurally sound. There are a few old damages to the panel, including two horizontal cracks that start at the center of the left edge and extend into the sky, as well as a minor crack in the lower right corner. No instability in the panel is associated with these damages. Overall there are minor scattered losses, most of which have been retouched. The two resting cows and the areas of landscape exhibit a fine craquelure pattern that has associated minor losses.