Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happy Birthday Aelbert Cuyp

For Sunday, "we" have something completely different. Aelbert Jacobsz Cuyp (October 20, 1620 – November 15, 1691) was one of the leading Dutch landscape painters of the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. The most famous of a family of painters, he is especially known for his large views of the Dutch countryside in early morning or late afternoon light.

 Cattle Near A River (from Wikipedia Commons).

Aelbert Cuyp's paintings are said to be "enveloped in the atmosphere as if imprisoned in pale amber." After his father's death in 1651 and his mother's three years later, Cuyp inherited considerable property and became a leading citizen in town affairs. 

The amount of biographical information regarding Aelbert Cuyp is tremendously limited. Even Arnold Houbraken, a noted historian of Dutch Golden Age paintings and the sole authority on Cuyp for the hundred years following his death, paints a very thin biographical picture. His period of activity as a painter is traditionally limited to the two decades between 1639 and 1660, fitting directly within the generally accepted limits of the Dutch Golden Age’s most significant period, 1640-1665.

The Negro Page

 Herdsman with cows

Cuyp painted landscapes and animals, but he also created seascapes, still lifes, and portraits. He often traveled the Dutch rivers, sketching from nature. His preferred scenes were idyllically peaceful river views with sun-drenched skies and landscapes with cows silhouetted against the sky, animals he endowed with as much grandeur as human heroes.

Back in 2011, I wrote a four part series on the Von Otterloo collection in which Cuyp, along with other painters of the era were well represented:

In Aelbert Cuyp’s monumental canvas "Orpheus Charming the Animals," one of the glories of the Van Otterloo collection, a very blond Dutch Orpheus plays the violin for an enchanted menagerie of animals. Enticed by his music, an assembly of animals and surrounding trees listen entranced to the Greek god Orpheus, whose mother, Calliope, was the muse of epic poetry.

The presence of an elephant, an ostrich, two tigers and a camel – animals that would have been considered exotic – reminds us that the seventeenth century also saw the rise of cabinets de curiosités, or curiosity cabinets, which housed collections of objects ranging from natural history to antiquities, and which served as forerunners to museums. The two charmingly overstuffed tigers at the forefront of the painting look like they've eaten a bit too much Dutch cheese for two more plump and innocuous specimens would never be found in the real world.

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