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  • 1/12/2005

Jan van Goyen

Dutch landscape painter

(January 13, 1596 - April 27, 1656)

Jan Josephsz van Goyen was born atLeiden on 13 January 1596. From 1606 he studied painting with a series of lesser-known Leiden artists, and with Willem Gerritsz in Hoorn. After traveling in France, van Goyen became a pupil of the landscape painter Esaias van de Velde in Haarlem around 1617. Van Goyen returned to Leiden, where he married Annetje Willemsdr van Raelst in 1618, purchased a house in 1625, and is documented regularly until 1632. In summer 1632 van Goyen moved to The Hague, where he resided until his death on27 April 1656. Van Goyen served twice as ahoofdman of the Guild of St. Luke inThe Hague, in 1638 and 1640. He traveled extensively throughout the Netherlands and Germany, filling numerous sketchbooks with direct and spontaneous studies after nature as well as more finished compositions (compare Oberlin"s Houtewael on the Diemerdijk, ca. 1651). Although van Goyen was a popular and productive artist, he speculated with remarkably ill success in real estate and tulip bulbs, and died insolvent. Van Goyen had numerous followers, but his only documented pupils are Nicolaes Berchem, Ary (Adriaan) van der Kabel (1630/1-1705), and Jan Steen; his daughter Margarethe married Steen in 1649.

Van Goyen was enormously prolific, producing more than 800 drawings and 1200 paintings. His earliest paintings (from about 1620-26) are close to those of his teacher Esaias van de Velde in their additive compositions and bright accents of local color. From the late 1620s, however, together with the Haarlem painters Pieter de Molyn (1595-1661), Jan Porcellis (ca. 1584-1632), and Salomon van Ruysdael (ca. 1600/3-1670), van Goyen developed a new "tonal" manner of landscape painting, characterized by a diagonally unified compositional structure and a restricted, almost monochromatic palette of tans, browns, and greyish greens. The subject matter of these tonalist landscapes was also somewhat transformed, focusing on unpretentious views of the Dutch countryside laid out beneath towering skies.


He was one of the foremost pioneers of realistic landscape painting in the Netherlands. His earliest works are heavily indebted to his master Esaias van de Velde, but he then created a distinctive type of monochrome landscape in browns and greys with touches of vivid blue or red to catch the eye; gnarled oaks; wide plains, usually seen from a height; low horizons and clouded skies. He was one of the first painters to capture the quality of the light and air in a scene and to suggest the movement of clouds.

Most of his paintings seem to be based on drawings made as he travelled about the countryside, and he evidently used the same drawings again and again because the same motifs recur repeatedly in his works. His finest work has a sense of poetic calm as well as great freshness and luminosity of atmosphere. Van Goyen worked in his native Leiden, Haarlem, and The Hague, where he died. He was hugely prolific and had many pupils and imitators. With Salomon van Ruysdael, whose paintings are often virtually indistinguishable from his, he was the outstanding master of the "tonal" phase of Dutch landscape painting, when the depiction of atmosphere was the artist"s prime concern.

"View of Dordrecht" 1644

River Landscape with Windmill and Town Wall, 1644 or 1645

Faded by the Sun

View of the Merwede beforeDordrecht

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