PROPERTY FROM THE LONDON RESIDENCE OF DIMITRI MAVROMMATIS
Dated 1630, this is an extremely rare example of a winter landscape by Van Goyen from the years 1628-38 and illustrates his immediate mastery of the genre, and it is therefore surprising that he spent much of the 1630s concentrating on river landscapes, dune landscapes and village scenes, only returning properly to the winter landscape in 1638. His several winter landscapes from that year are, however, clearly indebted to the present work, painted eight years earlier; compare, for example, with his 1638 work formerly with De Boer, Amsterdam,1 or with another from that year in Leiden, Stedelijk Museum de Lakenhal.2 Similarities between the latter and the present work are not merely compositional; as is often the case in his oeuvre, several motifs are repeated, most obviously the skater with the red jacket in the foreground who appears in the Lakenhal picture in reverse.
Van Goyen spent much of the 1620s still heavily influenced by Esaias van de Velde, under whom he had studied in 1618-19. In 1627 he broke away from the example of his master and his works after this date show a new maturity which marks the beginning of his own individual style. His winter landscapes of the 1620s are characterised, like Van de Velde's, by a composition cluttered with figures, buildings and trees. With this painting however, dated 1630, Van Goyen propels the genre into the new decade. After this work his winter landscapes, and those of many of his peers, are dominated by a huge, overpowering sky (which here takes up over three-quarters of the composition) and the landscape itself is opened up so creating a greater sense of spatial depth.
Of particular interest in this work is the presence of numerous underdrawings and pentimenti, on and around the figures. During his travels Van Goyen filled several sketchbooks with rapid studies of landscapes, buildings, animals and figures, which he would then use as the basis for elements in his oil paintings. The liberally, and often wildly, executed pencil marks that characterize this work are typical of Van Goyen's approach to drawing from this date onwards, where previously he had been far more meticulous. Both in terms of composition and technique, this panel should therefore be considered an important transitional work marking the beginning of the artist's maturity.
1. See H.-U. Beck, under Literature, p. 26, no. 52, reproduced.
2. See C. Vogelaar et al., Jan van Goyen, exhibition catalogue, Leiden and Zwolle 1996, p. 104, no. 20, reproduced.
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