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

Seashore at Scheveningen

Oil on wood, 53 x 71 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

In Holland in the seventeenth century it was customary for painters to specialize in one field, or even one subject. Painters who specialized in figure painting sought the help of another artist for the execution of a landscape, while the landscape painter would often ask a colleague to paint the human or animal figures or still-lifes that he wanted to include in his composition; it was very seldom that anyone who had established his name in a certain field was prepared to undertake a different kind of work. In fact specialization was carried to such lengths that some artists did not paint landscapes in general but restricted themselves to seascapes, twilight landscapes, townscapes or churches.

Such small paintings were produced comparatively quickly and in large numbers at quite modest prices. It is characteristic of the situation that Jan van Goyen, a famous painter of Dutch seascapes, was obliged to deal in tulip bulbs to make ends meet; moreover, he often got more for his tulips than for some of his paintings. During his youth Van Goyen was the pupil of Esaias van de Velde, and painted a great variety of landscapes in warm, brownish tones. Gradually, however, his interest became centred on the sea, the greyish, cloudy coast and the flat coastal plains under an enormous sky. It was in this type of scene that he created his masterpieces.

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