SWANEVELT, Herman van
(b. ca. 1600, Woerden, d. 1655, Paris)


Dutch painter who probably was born in about 1600 at Woerden, near Utrecht. By 1623 he was in Paris, and in the following year he was in Rome. There is no evidence to support the tradition that he lived in Rome about 1627/28 in the same house as Claude Lorrain, but it is certain that he had contact with other French artists as well as Netherlandish ones in the city.

During the beginning of the 1630s his development runs parallel to Claude's, and in some ways even anticipates it. During the thirties, as Swanevelt refined his idyllic landscape style, he worked for princely patrons. The plum was his commission from an agent of Philip IV who was helping the Spanish king assemble the colossal number of paintings needed to help decorate Buen Retiro, Philip's grandiose new palace in Madrid. Among the works ordered for the king were two series of landscapes, one of large-scale pastoral scenes, the other of anchorites in naturalistic settings. Together the two groups numbered more than fifty paintings. Swanevelt contributed to both series. When we consider that Philip acquired about 800 paintings to ornament his new palace, including Velázquez's Surrender of Breda and a host of other masterworks, the landscape commission may appear little more than a a touch of gilt added to the king's new golden house. But not so. Other artists who worked on the project include Claude, Poussin, Gaspar Dughet, and Jan Both. What remains of the ensemble gives the best idea of the achievement of the major landscapists active in Rome during the 1630s. It also was the largest, most spectacular landscape commission awarded in Europe during the seventeenth century.

After leaving Rome for Paris in 1641 the remainder of Swanevelt's career was mainly spent in the French capital where his paintings and etchings helped to popularise classical landscape in the north. His high-placed Parisian patrons included Cardinal Richelieu; he became 'peintre ordinaire' to Louis XIV, and, in 1651, a member of the Académie Royale. Swanevelt made a few trips to his birthplace Woerden before his death in Paris in 1655, and, when in Holland, this pioneer of the 'ideal landscape' also painted 'Dutch' scenery.

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