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Aelbert Cuyp, Self-Portrait as a Boy, c. 1650, oil on canvas, Bredius Museum, The Hague, inv. 157-1946, cat. nr.44

Aelbert Cuyp

Dutch, 1620 - 1691

Cuijp, Aelbert

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Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Aelbert Cuyp,” NGA Online Editions, (accessed February 28, 2024).

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Aelbert Cuyp, one of the foremost Dutch land­scape painters of the seventeenth century, was born in Dordrecht in October of 1620. His father, Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp (1594–1652), was a successful por­trait painter in the city, and from him Aelbert received his earliest training, assisting his father by painting landscape backgrounds for por­trait commissions. It is uncertain whether Cuyp had also apprenticed with a landscape painter, but he soon abandoned his father’s style and subject matter and turned almost exclusively to landscapes and river­scapes, painting only an occasional portrait in his mature period. Arnold Houbraken, a native of Dordrecht, noted that Cuyp was a man of “irreproachable character” (onbesproken leven), and the surviving documents concern his active involvement in the Dutch Reformed Church and the city affairs of Dordrecht, rather than his activities as a painter. His marriage to Cornelia Boschman (1617–1689), the wealthy widow of Johan van den Corput (1609–1650), a representa­tive to the admiralty at Middelburg and a member of an important Dordrecht family, took place on July 30, 1658. After his marriage, Cuyp appears to have painted less frequently, probably owing to a combi­nation of his increased church activity and the ab­sence of financial pressures. He was buried in the Augustinian Church at Dordrecht on November 15, 1691.

Houbraken commented that only the artist’s own works were found in his home at the time of his death, proof that nature alone served as his model. The stylistic evolution of his oeuvre, however, dis­proves Houbraken’s conclusion. Cuyp’s early landscapes are clearly inspired by the compositional ap­proach and monochromatic palette of Jan van Goyen (Dutch, 1596 - 1656), but by the middle of the 1640s, the influence of the Utrecht painter Jan Both (Dutch, 1615/1618 - 1652) be­comes apparent. Cuyp never lived in Utrecht, but probably his parents had met there while his father was studying, and Aelbert apparently visited the city regularly. By the mid-1640s Both had re­turned from Italy, bringing with him a new style employing the contre-jour effects associated with the work of Claude Lorrain (French, 1604/1605 - 1682). Cuyp soon recognized the possibilities of this new compositional approach and began to employ large foreground elements in his panoramic scenes, infusing them with a warm light and atmosphere. The occasional classical motif and Italianate lighting effects that are found in Cuyp’s mature works are not the result of a trip to Italy but of his association with Both, and perhaps other Italianate landscape painters he may have had contact with in Utrecht. Although no documents related to his travels exist, Cuyp’s drawn landscapes and townscapes do indicate that he traveled within the Netherlands and along the lower Rhine in Germany.

Cuyp seems to have worked for a number of important Dordrecht families. He was clearly an important artist in the city, although little is known about the organization or production of a workshop. Houbraken mentions only one pupil, Barent van Calraet (1649–1737), whose brother Abraham van Calraet (1642–1722), if not a pupil of Cuyp, was certainly a follower. It appears that many of Abraham van Calraet’s works were among those mistaken for au­tograph Cuyp paintings by the beginning of the twentieth century, when Hofstede de Groot included more than eight hundred entries in his catalogue raisonné of the master. By the late eighteenth century, Cuyp had many other followers and imitators, including Jacob van Strij (1756–1815).

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

April 24, 2014

Artist Bibliography

Houbraken, Arnold. De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders en Schilderessen. 3 vols. in 1. The Hague, 1753 (Reprint: Amsterdam, 1976): 1:248-249.
Smith, John. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. 9 vols. London, 1829-1842: 5(1834):279-368.
Veth, J. H. "Aelbert Cuyp, Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp en Benjamin Cuyp." Oud Holland 2 (1884): 233-290.
Stechow, Wolfgang. Dutch Landscape Painting of the Seventeenth Century. National Gallery of Art Kress Foundation Studies in the History of European Art, no. 1. London, 1966.
Burnett, David G. "Landscapes of Aelbert Cuyp." Apollo 89 (1969): 372-380.
Reiss, Stephen. Aelbert Cuyp. Boston, 1975.
Aelbert Cuyp en zijn familie: schilders te Dordrecht. Exh. cat. Dordrechts Museum, 1977.
Sutton, Peter C., et al. Masters of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscape Painting. Exh. cat. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art. Boston, 1987: 290-304.
MacLaren, Neil. The Dutch School, 1600-1900. Revised and expanded by Christopher Brown. 2 vols. National Gallery Catalogues. London, 1991: 1:86-87.
Chong, Alan. Aelbert Cuyp and the Meanings of Landscape. Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1992.
De Zichtbare Werelt. Exh. cat. Dordrechts Museum, 1992, 117-136.
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1995: 32-33.
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Aelbert Cuyp. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Gallery, London; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Washington, D.C., 2001.

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