Billowing clouds sweep across the sky in Jan van Goyen’s engaging portrayal of the lively waterways near Dordrecht. While sailboats and dinghies filled with men and women come and go, the most active elements of the painting are the shifting patterns of light and shade passing over this watery domain. Van Goyen exploited these atmospheric qualities not only through his quick and fluid brushwork, but also in the way he patterned his composition by silhouetting foreground figures and their boats against sunlit waters beyond, and by juxtaposing the distant city profile against the white clouds. While Van Goyen clearly viewed Dordrecht from the banks of the river Merwede, the essence of the painting is not topography but the character of the air and human life in the confluence of rivers surrounding this important and historic Dutch city.
Over the course of his long career, Van Goyen painted about 70 views of Dordrecht and its environs. This work, executed in the 1650s, is likely one of the last. The thick and vigorous application of paint is typical of his work from that time, as is the large compositional element of the ferryboat with its billowing sail and the strong contrasts of light and dark.
Billowing clouds sweeping across the sky help create the dynamic character of Jan van Goyen’s engaging portrayal of the lively waterways near Dordrecht.
I would like to thank Henriette Rahusen for her thoughtful comments on this text.
Van Goyen was intimately familiar with the location he depicted; he painted about 70 views of Dordrecht and its environs over the course of his long career.
See Peter C. Sutton, Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker (Greenwich, CT, 2008), 182, for a list of these paintings, which he derived from Hans-Ulrich Beck, Jan van Goyen, 1596–1656: ein Oeuvreverzeichnis, 2 vols. (Amsterdam, 1972–1973).
Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, “Jan van Goyen in the Corcoran: Exemplars of Dutch Naturalism,” in The William A. Clark Collection (Washington, DC, 1978), 51–59, particularly 57–58.
This work, painted in the 1650s, is among the last of Van Goyen’s many views of Dordrecht.
The last digit of the date in the inscription is uncertain, but probably is a “2,” indicating a date of 1652.
For an image of Van Goyen’s black-chalk drawing of Dordrecht, c. 1648, in his so-called “Dresden sketchbook,” see fig. 2 in Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Jan van Goyen, View of Dordrecht from the Dordtse Kil, 1644,” Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, NGA Online Editions, https://purl.org/nga/collection/artobject/56597. The entire Dresden sketchbook is published in Hans-Ulrich Beck, Jan van Goyen, 1596–1656: ein Oeuvreverzeichnis, vol. 1, Einführung; Katalog der Handzeichnungen (Amsterdam, 1972), no. 846.
Van Goyen had two preferred locations for his views of Dordrecht: one in the southwest, at the juncture of the Oude Maas and Dordtse Kil, as in the Gallery’s painting of 1644
The choice of this location was one that had an important precedent: the massive panoramic view of Dordrecht that Adam Willaerts (1577–1664) painted on commission from the city fathers in 1629. See Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Aelbert Cuyp (Washington, 2001), 23, fig. 8.
For a stylistically similar image of a ferry boat transferring passengers, in this instance from the southwest, at the juncture of the Oude Maas and Dordtse Kil, see Peter C. Sutton, Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker (Greenwich, CT, 2008), 180–183, cat. no. 23. This panel painting, dated 1651, was acquired by the Dordrechts Museum in 2008.
The broad compositional similarities among many of Van Goyen’s views of Dordrecht provide a fascinating framework for assessing his stylistic evolution from the 1630s to the 1650s. A comparison between the Gallery’s two paintings of Dordrecht, executed about a decade apart, is particularly revealing. In 1644, when Van Goyen painted the first of these two works
The evolution of Van Goyen’s style reflects broader tendencies in Dutch landscape painting around mid-century, particularly as seen in the work of
The parallels between Van Goyen’s stylistic evolution and that of Aelbert Cuyp are many, particularly in their views of Dordrecht. For Cuyp’s stylistic evolution and illustrations of a number of his views of Dordrecht, see Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Aelbert Cuyp (Washington, 2001).
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
May 7, 2019
lower right on the bow of the boat: V G 165[illegible numeral]
(Sale, Amsterdam, 24 September 1777, no. 43); Vermeulen. (sale, Amsterdam, 11 July 1798, no. 38); Gruyter. Samuel S. Scheikévitch [1842-1908], Moscow and Paris; (sale, Frederik Muller & Cie, Amsterdam, 30 April-2 May 1907, 1st day, no. 82, as Vue de Dordrecht). (Trotti & Co., Paris); half-share sold July 1908 to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); purchased 22 December 1908 by William Andrews Clark [1839-1925], New York, as Shipping Scene; bequest April 1926 to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by the National Gallery of Art.
- The Hudson-Fulton Celebration: Collection of Paintings by Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909, no. 19 (three publications; entries in 2 vol. 1909 catalogue and 1910 catalogue include repros. and have the dimensions of no. 18, NGA 2014.136.33).
- Romance and Reality: Aspects of Landscape Painting. For the Benefit of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Wildenstein & Co., New York, October 1978, no. 33.
- 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, 1978, catalogue without checklist.
- The William A. Clark Collection: Treasures of a Copper King, Yellowstone Art Center, Billings, Montana; Montana Historical Society, Helena, 1989, unnumbered checklist.
- Antiquities to Impressionism: The William A. Clark Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 2001-2002, catalogue without checklist.
The primary support is a plain-weave canvas that was relined onto plain-weave linen with a fiber-mat interleaf using wax-resin adhesive. The lining canvas is secured to an expansion-bolt stretcher with staples along the tacking edges. This non-original secondary support extends beyond the tacking margins and is adhered to the back of the stretcher with the same wax-resin mixture used for the lining. The threads of the primary support are visible in the x-radiograph of the painting, and the canvas has approximately 18 threads per centimeter in the vertical direction and 15 threads per centimeter in the horizontal direction.
X-radiography was carried out with a Comet Technologies XRP-75MXR-75HP tube, and the images were digitally captured using a Carestream Industrex Blue Digital Imaging Plate 5537 (14 × 17 in.). The parameters were 20 kV, 5 mA, 40 seconds, and 100.25 in. distance (from source to plate). The resulting digital images were composited and processed using Adobe Photoshop CS5.
The ground layer is thin and buff colored. The paint medium is estimated to be oil and was applied thinly without impasto. The artist first painted the sky and water, applying the paints wet into wet. The other elements and details were painted next, wet into wet, on top of the drier paint layers. This is evidenced in the infrared reflectogram, where the cloud formation is easily visible behind the largest sail and the highlights of the water can be seen through the boats.
Infrared reflectography was carried out using a Santa Barbara Focalplane InSb camera filtered to 1.1–1.4 microns (J filter).
Overall, the painting is in good condition. There are scattered small losses and several linear scratches. Most of these damages are covered in retouching, which is heaviest along the edges. The varnish coatings appear even, and under ultraviolet radiation they have a slightly hazy fluorescence. There are green-fluorescent natural-resin residues scattered around the edges and in the foreground.
May 7, 2019
- 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: 8(1927): 25-26, no. 50.
- Hofstede de Groot, Cornelis. Beschreibendes und kritisches Verzeichnis der Werke der hervorragendsten holländischen Maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts. 10 vols. Esslingen and Paris, 1907-1928: 8(1923): 19, no. 50.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a collection of paintings by Dutch masters of the seventeenth century. The Hudson-Fulton Celebration 1. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909: 20, no. 19, repro.
- Breck, Joseph. "L'Art hollandais à l'exposition Hudson-Fulton à New-York." L'Art Flamand et Hollandais 13 (June-July 1910): 59.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R. Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Old Dutch Masters Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Connection with the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. New York, 1910: 86, no. 19, repro.
- 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): 132, no. 71.
- Volhard, Hans. Die Grundtypen der Landschaftsbilder Jan van Goyens und ihre Entwiklung. Frankfurt am Main, 1927: 163, 188.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Illustrated Handbook of the W. A. Clark Collection. Washington, 1928: 42.
- Corcoran Gallery of Art. Illustrated Handbook of the W. A. Clark Collection. Washington, 1932: 47.
- Breckenridge, James. D. A Handbook of Dutch and Flemish Paintings in the William Andrews Clark Collection. Washington, 1955: 20, repro.
- Beck, Hans-Ulrich. Jan van Goyen, 1596-1656: ein Oeuvreverzeichnis. 4 vols. Vol. 2: Katalog der Gemälde. Amsterdam, 1973: 2: 153, no. 311, repro.
- Sutton, Denys. Romance and Reality: Aspects of Landscape Painting. For the Benefit of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Exh. cat. New York, Wildenstein & Co. New York, 1978: 18-19, nos. 21 and 33, repro.
- Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 299.
- Lewis, Hall, ed. The William A. Clark Collection: Treasures of a Copper King. Exh. cat. Billings, Yellowstone Art Center, Billings; Helena, Montana Historical Society, Helena. Billings, 1989: 7, 42, repro.