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

Windmill by a River

Oil on panel, 29,4 x 36,3 cm
National Gallery, London

The tonal style in Dutch landscape painting of the 1630s continued well into the 1640s, while still developing, especially in the hands of Jan van Goyen. The direction in which van Goyen took landscape reveals a considered logic; as tonal painting was a realistic attempt to capture an atmosphere, its consequence was, in the end, to paint the sky over the flat, low land. Thus, in his "Windmill by a River", the real subject is the moving skies.

Everything is subordinated to the high sky, a sky that seems to take on the colour of the vast land stretching to a low, distant horizon: a brownish-green with tinges of blue. Only the sky contains more grey - the clouds - and is more transparent in its pictorial treatment. Dunes in the foreground, caught in a splash of sunlight, introduce the distance - suggesting a high viewpoint that gives the view naturalness. The windmill, painted in the greyish-brown colour of the sky, is a discreet spatial reference point.

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