HOBBEMA, Meyndert
(b. 1638, Amsterdam, d. 1709, Amsterdam)

Road on a Dyke

Oil on canvas, 108 x 128 cm
Private collection

Meindert Hobbema was born in Amsterdam and was a pupil there of the landscape painter Jacob van Ruisdael. Ruisdael had moved to Amsterdam from his native Haarlem by 1657 and Hobbema must have entered his studio shortly thereafter. Hobbema's technique in the depiction of landscape and his choice of forest scenes are derived from his master, but Hobbema's landscapes do not possess the grandeur or the threatening and even melancholy aspect of Ruisdael's. Hobbema's is a reassuringly docile vision of landscape, a town-dweller's account of the beauty of the countryside. It is an essentially decorative view, an anticipation of the rococo landscapes of the eighteenth century.

The Road on a Dyke shows him placing themes taken from Ruisdael - the pool surrounded by trees, the large over-arching oak dominating the landscape; the country path rutted by the wheels of waggons - in an open, sunlit landscape. The figures and cattle in the right foreground are probably by Adriaen van de Velde, who often collaborated with Hobbema and other landscape painters.

Hobbema's career is a reminder of how precarious a living was to be made from painting in Holland in the seventeenth century. In 1668 Hobbema was appointed to the post of wine-gauger to the Amsterdam guild of wine-importers, through his marriage to the maidservant of a burgomaster in Amsterdam. Although by no means an exalted position, the job did at least guarantee a regular income, and Hobbema almost gave up painting entirely: However, it was during these years that he produced some of his finest works, including The Avenue at Middelharnis, painted in 1689.