Painted in Leiden in 1627, this small panel is one of the earliest examples of a diagonal design that the artist would use until about 1640. Although Van Goyen worked in Haarlem only when he studied with Esaias van de Velde (1617–18), his tonal manner was well known to Haarlem painters such as Salomon van Ruysdael and Pieter de Molijn.
This small panel was painted in Leiden in 1627, a year in which Van Goyen produced an impressive number of paintings and drawings, including a sketchbook. Both the subject and the compositional type, with its diagonal road and wedge-shaped repoussoir, are found frequently in the artist's oeuvre from the late 1620s to about 1640. Works by Van Goyen like this picture influenced his contemporary Pieter de Molijn, the slightly younger Salomon van Ruysdael, and other landscapists in the area of Haarlem and Amsterdam.
The rugged oak on the left is one of the painter's standard motifs; similar survivors from the windswept dunes near the Dutch coast are placed prominently in paintings dating from his earliest years. An almost leafless tree trunk is set slightly deeper in space, framing a distant church tower. The recession through the middle ground is clarified by the comparative scale of the two resting figures and that of the man in the distance walking with a dog, while weathered farm buildings stand out in the late-afternoon sun. The dark clouds passing through the blue sky recall an observation made by Max Friedländer (in Landscape, Portrait, Still-Life: Their Origin and Development, New York, 1963, p. 95) that a view by Van Goyen usually promises rain, whereas in scenes by Van Ruysdael the clouds have retreated, driven off by a fresh breeze.
The Met's picture dates from about the time that Van Goyen first employed a tonal palette and Baroque compositional designs, as is evident from comparisons with his more colorful but less theatrically staged works of about 1624–26. Paintings dating from 1628 through the early 1630s reveal many of the same devices, especially the division of terrain into contrasting areas. But the pattern used here was promptly transformed into subtler arrangements, usually in broader vistas with more diffused effects of light and atmosphere.
The care with which Van Goyen composed works of this type is also clear from his sketchbook of 1627, which comprises about fifty ideas for paintings recorded "from life." For this type of design, the artist was indebted to his teacher Esaias van de Velde (1587–1630), who anticipates the present picture in a drawing of about 1616 (Morgan Library & Museum, New York). However, Van Goyen eschews his master's fondness for graceful motifs in favor of more rugged forms. Their tactile qualities are emphasized to both descriptive and artistic effect, as in the sunlit grass that flows like seaweed over the sandy ground.
Although rich in observations made out of doors, landscapes like this one are very much products of the studio. The subject of bucolic cottages flourished in Holland during the early seventeenth century and was encouraged by literature celebrating the supposed pleasures of a simple life lived on the land.
[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): I V GOIEN 1627
Myra Mortimer Pinter, New York (by 1970–d. 1972)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.
"Recent Museum Acquisitions." Burlington Magazine 115 (August 1973), p. 537, fig. 79.
John Walsh Jr. "New Dutch Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 99 (May 1974), pp. 344, 349 n. 9, fig. 7.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, p. 332, fig. 601.
Hans-Ulrich Beck. Jan van Goyen, 1596–1656. Vol. 3, Ergänzungen zum Katalog der Handzeichnungen und Ergänzungen zum Katalog der Gemälde. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1987, p. 265, no. 1054A, ill.
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 225–27, 490, no. 49, colorpl. 49; vol. 2, p. 803.