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Herdsmen with Cows

The Dutch painter Aelbert Cuyp (1620-91) captures the serene beauty of the Dutch countryside and a harmonious relationship between people and nature. The central focus of the painting is a group of cows and herdspeople who have paused in a moment of repose. The warm, golden light of the low sun casts a gentle glow over the landscape in which Cuyp masterfully employs the effects of light and shadow. A ring of coloured air surrounds the sun, almost like a rainbow. This diffuse light extends over the earth as well as the sky, showing Cuyp’s keen eye for colour, light, and particular atmospheric effects. The weeds, tree stumps, and grasses of the foreground are lit up in striking patterns by the slanting light which plays upon the uneven ground. Over the foreground ridge, distant mountains rise up beyond the meandering river, glimpsed through the glowing mist. Cuyp shows how light can transform even an ordinary, local scene.

Cuyp learned these colour and light effects from contemporary Dutch artists working in Rome, Italy, who were known as the ‘Dutch Italianates’. His ability to infuse his works with warm and atmospheric golden light reflect this Italian influence upon his Dutch scenes.

Currently on display

Aelbert Cuyp
Gallery 5
101.4 x 145.8 cm
Oil on canvas
Signed, lower right: 'A. cúÿp'
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number