GOYEN, Jan van
(b. 1596, Leiden, d. 1656, Den Haag)

Haarlemmer Meer

Oil on canvas., 39 x 54 cm
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

Jan van Goyen was born in Leiden and trained in the studios of a succession of local artists. His most influential teacher, however, was Esaias van de Velde in whose Haarlem studio he spent a year before establishing . himself as an independent painter in his native town. Subsequently van Goyen worked in The Hague and Haarlem.

In his earliest landscapes - his first dated painting is from 1618 - van Goyen employed the highly coloured, strongly linear technique of Esaias van de Velde, but progressively his paintings become less colourful and less crowded with figures. He shared this move towards a deliberately restricted palette of blues, greys, greens and blacks, and simple compositions, with the Haarlem landscape painters, Pieter Molijn and Salomon van Ruysdael. In the work of all three painters the sky assumes greater and greater importance, as in this painting in which it occupies almost three-quarters of the picture surface. The clouds are painted thinly over the prepared ground of the panel which gives a warm undertone. In this view of Haarlemmer Meer, a vast inland lake which was not drained until the nineteenth century, the Great Church at Haarlem can be seen on the horizon in the far right-hand corner. This atmospheric study of clouds and still water was painted in the last year of the artist's life.

With his linear style it is no surprise to discover that van Goyen was an indefatigable draughtsman. More than 800 drawings and several sketchbooks, all in his favourite medium of black chalk and wash, are known today. Many are quick sketches made from nature during his travels in the north Netherlands and Germany, which in the studio were transformed into imaginative landscapes. His rapid painting technique enabled him to be a prolific artist: more than twelve hundred paintings from his hand survive.

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