Jan van Goyen
(Leiden, 1596-1656, Den Haag)
River Landscape with a Ferry, 1625
Oil on panel, 42 x 65.5 cm
Signed & dated lower right: I V Goyen 1625
Beck 234
This was indeed very novel in landscape painting: Gone is the vastly conceived composition of fantastic mountains, forests and plains, endless perspectives, abrupt foreshortenings and chasms and dramatic backgrounds, in the Bührle Collection's painting, we have a composition of everyday elements; gone is the elevated vantage-point suggesting a map; the horizon has narrowed, and the painter is converted into a patient observer of nature, being within the scene himself. This is a kind of realism, which between 1610 and 1630 gave rise to the Dutch "native" style of landscape painting, but which it is not the Realism of the 19th century or the close observation of the "veduta" painters. Even this comfortable scene is not a slice of reality, only an assemblage of real details recorded in the sketchbook or in the memory. The dark chromatic range is "art", not "nature"; naturally the picture was done in the workshop, not out of doors. In the foreground, a ferry with cows and country people is to be seen. Burdened peasants wander off. A mill towers up in the center; at one time all this would have been brought farther forward and heightened. The painter was obviously excited by the reflections in the river. Other boats are visible, one with an angler, as well as farms. In the background to the left, a larger estate can be distinguished as can be an entire collection of motifs from village life, conceived in dark-brown and painted in a relaxed manner, the figures all buxom. In the auction of 1785 the picture was marked: "Goijen 1625. (J. van) in de manier van zyn Meester, E. van den Velden." Indeed van Goyen’s teacher Esaias van de Velde for years influenced the work of van Goyen, who was only a little younger, in composition, colour and motif. This can be seen especially well whilst comparing the Bührle Collection's picture to the painting of a ferry crossing a rier by van de Velde, painted in 1622 and now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.