BERCHEM, Nicolaes
(b. 1620, Haarlem, d. 1683, Amsterdam)

Herdsmen and Herds at a Waterfall

c. 1665
Oil on canvas, 110 x 153 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

The landscape Herdsmen and Herds at a Waterfall was painted in the 1660s, during a phase of the artist's production which occurred long after any Italian journey. The work shows a rocky valley with a mountain river running through it whose source appears to be the waterfall in the distance. The steep wooded riverbank to the left faces a craggy cliff face on the other side. A couple of goatherds rest on the rocky plateau below, while a larger herd of cattle is being driven off to the right. A narrow path on the far right leads down to the water. A number of other sheep and cattle are being driven along this bank, to cross the river at a shallow spot. The eye moves from the lower edge of the picture up the valley and into the distance, towards sunny mountain uplands. The very painterly emphasis on individual motifs in the foreground, such as the naked branch lying partly in the water, the vegetation on the bank, and the trunks of the large trees, partly denuded of their bark, is characteristic of Berchem's style from around 1660 onwards. The bright light in the foreground and the bold shadows it casts make the details of the vegetation and rocky landscape stand out clearly. By contrast, the middleground and background are bathed in a soft, diffuse light and seem to swim before our eyes. The use of harsh light and the sharpness of the contours of the individual motifs reveal the influence of Adam Pynacker on Berchem's later work. This painting, in an unusually large format for Berchem, can be regarded as a typical example of this influence.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.