OIL PAINTING: River Landscape, 1655-1660
This large canvas of Cuyp - River Landscape, arguably the greatest of all Cuyp's landscapes, was probably painted in the late 1650s, and represents the culmination of his career as a landscape painter. Following his marriage to a wealthy widow in 1658, Cuyp seems to have abandoned painting. Cuyp's patrons, with those of his father, the portrait painter, Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp, appear to have been members of the regent families of Dordrecht and this landscape, with its remarkable effects of sunlight and the extraordinary delicacy in the treatment of details, was presumably intended to hang in the house of a member of this group which Cuyp joined by marriage. In a print of 1764, made shortly after the painting arrived in England, it is identified as a view of the River Maas at Dordrecht. In fact, it is an imaginary landscape, with mountains on a scale which cannot be found in The Netherlands. Cuyp may, however, have referred to drawings of actual views he made in his sketchbooks, particularly those made on a visit to Nijmegen and Cleves in 1651-2.
River Landscape was purchased in the United Provinces by Captain William Baillie in about 1760. He acted as an agent for John, Earl of Bute, in the formation of the art collection which hung at Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire. According to Benjamin West, it was this picture which began the rage for landscapes by Cuyp among British collectors. On 18 May 1818, Joseph Farington wrote in his diary: 'I went to the British Institution and there met Mr. West and I went round the exhibition with him examining all the paintings. While looking at Lord Bute's picture by Cuyp, he said that painting was brought to England by the late Captn. Baillie, and was the first picture by that master known in England. Having been seen pictures by Cuyp were eagerly sought for and many were introduced and sold to advantage'.
River Landscape was purchased from the Marquess of Bute by the National Gallery in 1989.