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Herdsmen with Cows


All landscape painters must to some extent choose between solid forms and light, between the earth and the sky. They must decide whether to concentrate on the weight and solidity of the ground itself, or on the light and air in which it is seen. Cuyp, even in his early, less Italianate works, chooses sky. In 'Herdsmen with Cows', to give it due prominence he adopts the lowest possible view-point, so that even the nearby cows project above the horizon. Everything in the painting is affected by the quality of the light striking it. Even the weeds, stumps and grasses of the foreground are lit up in strange patterns by the slanting light of the setting sun. Beyond the foreground ridge, we have to peer through the glowing mist to make out the river and distant mountains. Colour is again dictated by light, with the golds and blues of the sunset predominating over the greens and browns of the grass and the earth. There is a ring of coloured air surrounding the sun, almost like a rainbow, which extends over the earth as well as the sky. Cuyp learned these effects from Claude and from Dutch artists working in Rome. The setting here is not specific, but it is more Dutch than Italian. Cuyp wishes to show how light can transform even an ordinary, local scene. Dated by Chong 'slightly later' than DPG4, thus probably c.1645. DPG128 was especially admired and extensively copied in the nineteenth century.

Not currently on display

Aelbert Cuyp
On loan to Dordrechts Museum, Netherlands
101.4 x 145.8 cm
Oil on canvas
Signed, lower right: 'A. cúÿp'
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number