CONINXLOO, Gillis van
(b. 1544, Antwerpen, d. 1607, Amsterdam)

Mountain Landscape with River Valley and the Prophet Hosea

Watercolour on parchment, 195 x 287 mm
Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp

The subject of this landscape is a moralistic one with a reference to a passage from the Bible, more specifically the Old Testament book of Hosea. The drawing is believed to have been done in Frankenthal, a small town in the Pfalz mountains where an important artists' colony sprang up after the fall of Antwerp to the Spanish in 1585. Many of the artists who settled there were Flemings sympathetic to the Reformation, who had been forced into exile because of their Protestant faith. Some years later, a number of them, including Gillis van Coninxloo, moved to Amsterdam. Protestant artists worked in Frankenthal in a reformed environment, which was naturally reflected in the subjects they chose to paint. That is certainly the case with this drawing. The Prophet Hosea opposed what he saw as abuses in the field of worship, making him a symbolic precursor of early Protestant leaders.

Gillis van Coninxloo is viewed as an innovator in Flemish landscape painting. Above all, he represents the transition from the Mannerist to the Baroque landscape. The watercolour of the prophet Hosea is still done entirely in his early Mannerist style. Van Coninxloo went on to master and develop a variety of styles in his life. His influence on his contemporaries was crucial, and was felt by both Flemish and Dutch painters. In many ways, he helped Northern Netherlandish art embark on its search for a new, distinct identity.