Adam Pynacker’s atmospheric, idyllic landscapes have a strongly Italianate character, but no documentary evidence exists to prove that he did indeed spend time in Italy. Pynacker’s compositions are quite imaginative, and his landscapes rarely adhere to the classical principles of composition favored by other Italianizing Dutch landscape painters. Apart from individual landscapes, Pynacker also executed a few series of large landscapes that wealthy merchants commissioned to decorate their stately town houses and country estates.
The characteristic features of Pynacker’s style, particularly his use of light to accent figures and foliage as well as the lively rhythms of branches, trees, and shrubbery, are very much evident in this calm work. Small patches of red and the highlights of the white shirts and collars draw our attention to the people, yet the large, twisted tree trunk equally piques our interest. This very early work reflects a Dutch landscape more than an Italianate one.
In this densely wooded landscape, dappled light draws the eye to the various figural groups that help enliven the scene. In the foreground four resting travelers quietly converse while in the distance a man and a woman tend a fire on the bank of a stream, perhaps to prepare a repast for the travelers resting in a nearby boat. Light not only picks out figural groups, but also illuminates pockets of grass and accents tree trunks and the lively rhythms of branches, even those growing from broken logs lying on the ground.
This landscape, which is neither signed nor dated, has been attributed to Adam Pynacker by Bode, Nieuwstraten, and Harwood.
Wilhelm von Bode, director of the Prussian Royal Museums, 1906–1920, in a label attached to the back of Wooded Landscape with Travelers, probably written in 1925: “Die vorstehend abgebildete Landschaft ist ein tüchtiges u. charakteristisches Bild der Adam Pynacker, von beste Erhaltung, W. V. Bode.” See letter to purchaser Carl Boschwitz from Dr. Eduard Plietzsch, director, Galerie van Diemen, Berlin, September 24, 1925, in NGA curatorial files; J. Nieuwstraten, director, Rijksbureau von Kunsthistorische Documentatie, letter, April 26, 1979, also in National Gallery of Art curatorial files; and Laurie B. Harwood, Adam Pynacker (c. 1620–1673) (Doornspijk, 1988), 113, no. 9.
This date is also proposed by J. Nieuwstraten, director, Rijksbureau von Kunsthistorische Documentatie, letter, April 26, 1979, in National Gallery of Art curatorial files. Laurie B. Harwood, Adam Pynacker (c. 1620–1673) (Doornspijk, 1988), 113, no. 9, proposes c. 1649. Pynacker’s earliest dated painting is 1650. See Laurie B. Harwood, Adam Pynacker (c. 1620–1673) (Doornspijk, 1988), 18, no. 15.
Laurie B. Harwood, Adam Pynacker (c. 1620–1673) (Doornspijk, 1988), 101, no. 4. Reproduced in Albert Blankert, Museum Bredius: Catalogus van de Schilderijen en Tekeningen (The Hague, 1978), 102, where, however, Blankert suggests a date of 1650/1655.
Pynacker’s setting is undoubtedly imaginary, although the roughness and untamed character of this hilly terrain, the types of trees, as well as their ocher tonalities, reflect the character of the eastern region of the Netherlands. Indeed, the figures are dressed in contemporary clothes similar to those one would expect from Dutch travelers. Whether or not Pynacker did go to Italy, as Houbraken asserts,
Arnold Houbraken, De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders en Schilderessen. 3 vols. (The Hague, 1753; reprint: Amsterdam, 1976): 2:96. Houbraken does not indicate when Pynacker went to Italy, and the possibility exists that Pynacker travelled to Italy at a later stage of his career.
See, for example,
The prominence of the broken tree trunk in this work suggests, as Harwood has already postulated, that Pynacker looked beyond his native Schiedam for artistic inspiration and turned to the far more active community of painters in nearby Rotterdam.
Laurie B. Harwood, A Golden Harvest: Paintings by Adam Pynacker, exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA, 1994), 25.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.
April 24, 2014
(Galerie van Diemen, Berlin); sold 1925 to Carl Boschwitz, New York;  by inheritance 1977 to his daughters, Dr. Ruth B. Benedict [1913-1993], Washington, D.C., and Bertha B. Leubsdorf, New York; gift 1979 to NGA.
- A Golden Harvest: Paintings by Adam Pynacker, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, 1994, no. 2, repro.
- Extended loan for use by Attorney General John Ashcroft, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., 2002-2005.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 321, repro.
- Harwood, Laurie B. Adam Pynacker (c. 1620-1673). Doornspijk, 1988: no. 9.
- Harwood, Laurie B. A Golden Harvest: Paintings by Adam Pynacker. Exh. cat. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota. Williamstown, 1994: 40-41, no. 2, repro.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 201-202, color repro. 203.
The support, a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric, has been lined with the right, left, and top tacking margins trimmed and the bottom tacking margin turned out and incorporated into the picture plane. A hard, brittle layer of sizing is discernible below the thin, tan ground layer. Paint is applied as fluid pastes and stippling in the foliage.
The condition of the painting is only moderately good. The greens in the landscape, moreover, have darkened over time. Discrete inpainting covers scattered small losses, and later repaint is found along the bottom edge. In 1978 the painting was lined and discolored varnish and inpainting were removed.
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