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.
Hobbema painted three other versions of a Hut among Trees, but the National Gallery painting is the only one in which the house is in such disrepair. Hobbema’s compositions tended to become more open over the course of the 1660s, so the comparatively dense band of trees stretching across the middle section of this painting suggests that this may be the earliest of the four similar works. Before this canvas was cleaned, a different figure group—probably added in the nineteenth century—occupied the center. The addition had covered the original figures of a woman and child, which were then restored.
Hobbema was a master of rearranging frequently used compositional elements in his paintings. One encounters time and again familiar vistas, houses, groupings of trees, and figures who wander along meandering paths that pass through wooded landscapes. He built his scenes along established compositional principles, which included leading the viewer gently into the distance, either along paths or by means of alternating zones of light and dark. Remarkably, though, Hobbema’s delicate touch and ability to suggest the varied light conditions of a partly cloudy day invariably transmit the feeling of a scene painted directly from life.
Three other versions of this composition exist, none of them dated.
The location of one of these is not known (Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts, 10 vols. [Esslingen and Paris, 1907–1928), 4:410, no. 114; Georges Broulhiet, Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709) [Paris, 1938], 209; formerly Robarts Collection, England). The other two are in London (National Gallery; John Smith, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, 9 vols. [London, 1829–1842], 6:133, no. 63; Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts, 10 vols. [Esslingen and Paris, 1907–1928], 4:427, no. 162; Georges Broulhiet, Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709) [Paris, 1938], 269) and The Hague (Mauritshuis; Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts, 10 vols. [Esslingen and Paris, 1907–1928], 6:434, no. 184).
Because Hobbema’s compositions tended to become more open during the course of the 1660s, the comparatively dense band of trees that stretches across the middle ground in this work adds further support to the idea that it is the earliest in this sequence of related scenes. In the version now in the Mauritshuis
For a discussion of the Mauritshuis painting and its relationship to Hut among Trees, see Ben P. J. Broos, Meesterwerken in het Mauritshuis (The Hague, 1987), 208–211.
The painting is in excellent condition, except for the figure group and the area surrounding them. In 1984 it was discovered during conservation treatment that the mother and child figures as they then appeared were not original and were probably nineteenth-century creations. At that same time, the vestiges of two other figures, slightly larger and somewhat to their left, were discovered under the additions. The old remains were then reconstructed. More figures, including a horse, may once have accompanied them. Why these original figures were at some point physically removed and replaced is not known. The original staffage painter has not been identified.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
lower left: M Hobbema
Probably Hugh Hammersley [1774-1840]; (his estate sale, Alexander Rainy, London, 21 August 1841, no. 57); (Charles J. Nieuwenhuys, Brussels and London). William Bingham Baring, 2nd baron Ashburton [1799-1864], Grange Park, Hampshire, by 1854; by inheritance to his brother, Francis Baring, 3rd baron Ashburton [1800-1868], Grange Park; by inheritance to his son, Alexander Hugh Baring, 4th baron Ashburton [1835-1889], Grange Park; by inheritance to his son, Francis Denzil Edward Baring, 5th baron Ashburton [1866-1938], Grange Park; jointly purchased 1907 by (Thos. Agnew & Sons, Ltd., Arthur J. Sulley & Co., and Charles J. Wertheimer, all in London); sold 1909 by (Arthur J. Sulley & Co.) to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.
- Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1890, no. 85, as Landscape.
- Verso Monet: Storia del paesaggio dal Seicento al Novecento, Palazzo della Gran Guardia, Verona; Basilica Palladiana, Vicenza, 2013- 2014, no. 5, repro.
The support, a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric, has been lined twice and the original tacking margins have been removed. The fabric was prepared with a double ground consisting of an upper dark gray layer over a white or off-white layer. Diagonal trowel marks, presumably from the application of the ground, are visible in the X-radiographs.
The paint was applied fluidly with vigorous brushmarking and refined with transparent glazes. After an initial freely painted sketch, more detailed layers were applied. Infrared reflectography (vidicon) shows tree trunks and branches blocked out first, then dense foliage applied, followed by individual outer leaves. Scattered small losses are found overall. The figures were severely damaged at some point by an apparently intentional attempt to remove them.
The painting was treated in 1964 when a lining was added and losses were inpainted. The painting was treated again in 1983-1985, at which time it was discovered that the central foreground, including the two standing figures had been entirely repainted during a previous restoration. Removal of the discolored varnish and repaint/overpaint, revealed vestiges of the original rendering of the woman and child, as well as a ghost image of an additional horse and rider. The figures of the woman and child were reconstructed based on the remnants, but the additional horse and rider were not, because the trace amounts that were found were insufficient.
 The pigments were analyzed by the NGA scientific research department using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and polarized light microscopy (see reports dated April 4, 1984, May 3, 1984, and August 16, 1984).
 Infrared reflectography was performed with a Hamamatsu c/1000-03 vidicon camera and a Kodak Wratten 87A filter.
- Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 9(1842):729, no. 28.
- Jervis-White-Jervis, Lady Marian. Painting and Celebrated Painters, Ancient and Modern. 2 vols. London, 1854: 2:225, 344.
- Thoré, Théophile E. J. (William Bürger). "Hobbema." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 4 (October 1859): 34 (either Hut among Trees or Ashburton's other Hobbema is mentioned).
- Royal Academy of Arts. Exhibition of works by the old masters and by deceased masters of the British School: including a collection of drawings and models by Alfred Stevens. Winter Exhibition. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1890: no. 85.
- Cundall, Frank. The Landscape and Pastoral Painters of Holland: Ruisdael, Hobbema, Cuijp, Potter. Illustrated biographies of the great artists. London, 1891: 157.
- 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):415-416, no. 181.
- 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):433, no. 181.
- Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813–1912. 5 vols. London, 1913-1915: 2(1913):517, no. 85.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis, and Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Pictures in the collection of P. A. B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: Early German, Dutch & Flemish Schools. Philadelphia, 1913: unpaginated, repro.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro.
- Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 56, repro.
- Broulhiet, Georges. Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709). Paris, 1938: 236, 413, no. 268.
- National Gallery of Art. Works of art from the Widener collection. Washington, 1942: 5.
- National Gallery of Art. Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 60, repro.
- MacLaren, Neil. The Dutch School. Text. National Gallery Catalogues. London, 1960: 170, n. 1 to no. 995.
- National Gallery of Art. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1965: 68.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 60, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. European paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Washington, 1975: 176, repro.
- Wright, Christopher. Dutch Landscape Painting. Exh. cat. Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne. Newcastle, 1983: 65.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 295, no. 386, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 203, repro.
- Broos, Ben P.J., et al. De Rembrandt à Vermeer. Les peintures hollandais au Mauritshuis de La Haye. Exh. cat. Galeries nationale du Grand Palais, Paris. The Hague, 1986: 262-275, no. 34c, repro.
- Broos, Ben P. J. Meesterwerken in het Mauritshuis. The Hague, 1987: 211, repro.
- MacLaren, Neil. The Dutch School, 1600-1900. Revised and expanded by Christopher Brown. 2 vols. National Gallery Catalogues. London, 1991: 1:182, fig. 43.
- Keyes, George S. "Meindert Hobbema's Wooded Landscape with a Water Mill." The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin 67 (1995): 48, fig. 8.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 120-123, color repro. 121.
- forest path
- the poor
- rural life
- mathematical perspective