Black chalk, graphite, brush and brown ink with grey and brown washes. The foreground heightened with gum arabic. Framing lines in brown and black ink. Traces of two effaced inscriptions A. Cuyp in brown ink at the lower left and AC in black chalk at the lower right. Numbered No.60 in black chalk on the verso. Watermark: Fragmentary W.
159 x 505 mm. (6 ¼ x 19 ⅞ in.)
Sold to a Private Collection.
EXHBITED: Possibly London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Summer 1926; London, Royal Academy of Arts, Exhibition of Dutch Art 1450-1900, 1929, no.565 (as a View of a Town on a River (Flushing?)); Rotterdam, Museum Boymans, Meesterwerken uit Vier Eeuwen 1400-1800, 1938, no.255; Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, Five Centuries of Drawings, 1953, no.141 (as a Distant View of Flushing); Washington, National Gallery of Art, London, National Gallery and Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Aelbert Cuyp, 2001-2002, no.80.
PROVENANCE: Sir George Douglas, Bart., London and Springwood Park, Kelso; His (anonymous) sale, London, Christie’s, 31 March 1916, lot 57 (as a View of Leiden), bt. Colnaghi for £37.16.0; P. & D. Colnaghi, London; Sold on May 25th, 1916 to Henry Oppenheimer, London; His sale, London, Christie’s, 10-14 July 1936, lot 226 (500 gns to Hirschmann for Larsen); H.L. Larsen; His widow, Suzanne Larsen-Menzel, Wassenaar, later Mrs. Frank E. Brower, Beverly Hills; Her sale, New York, Parke-Bernet, 6 November 1947, lot 11 (as a Panoramic View of Vlissingen), sold for $1,000; Eric H.L. Sexton, Rockport, Maine; Thence by descent; acquired in 2001 by a Private Collection.
LITERATURE: Gustavus Mayer, List of Drawings, etc. in the collection of H. Oppenheimer, Esq., MS, Colnaghi, [June?] 1923, p.23, no.451 (as a View of Leiden, bought from Colnaghi in 1916 for £41.11.7); C. Hofstede de Groot, ‘Einige Betrachtungen über die Ausstellung Holländischer Kunst in London’, Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, 1929, p.144 (where the view is recognized as of Dordrecht and not Vlissingen); London, Royal Academy of Arts, A Commemorative Catalogue of the Exhibition of Dutch Art held in the Galleries of the Royal Academy, Burlington House, London, January-March 1929, London, 1930, p.194, no.565, as a View of a Town on a River (Dordrecht?) (entries by A.M. Hind and D. Hannema); Frits Lugt, Les marques de collections de dessins & d’estampes: Supplément, The Hague, 1956, p.395, under no.2769c; Brussels, Bibliothèque Albert Ier, Dessins hollandais du siècle d’or: Choix de dessins provenant de collections publiques et particulières néerlandaises, exhibition catalogue, 1961, p.105, under no.104; I.Q. van Regteren Altena and Peter Ward-Jackson, Drawings from Teyler Museum, Haarlem, exhibition catalogue, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1970, p.32, under no.38; J.G. van Gelder and Ingrid Jost, ‘Doorzagen op Aelbert Cuyp’, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, 1972, pp.224-228, fig.1; Stephen Reiss, Aelbert Cuyp, Boston, 1975, p.60; Alan Chong, Aelbert Cuyp and the Meanings of Landscape, unpublished Ph.D thesis, New York University, 1992, p.287, under no.31; Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, ‘The Beauty of Holland: Aelbert Cuyp as Landscape Draftsman’, in Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., ed., Aelbert Cuyp, exhibition catalogue, Washington and elsewhere, 2001, p.82; Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., ed., Aelbert Cuyp, exhibition catalogue, Washington and elsewhere, 2001, pp.248 and 285, no.80 (entry by Wouter Kloek); Hans-Ulrich Beck, ‘Aelbert Cuyp’ [exhibition catalogue review], Master Drawings, 2002, No.3, pp.267-268, notes 3 and 6; Louis-Antoine Prat, ‘Trente ans et des poussières: une vue cavalière du marché du dessin’, Revue de l’Art, 2004, No.1, p.99.
One of the greatest Dutch landscape painters of the 17th century, Aelbert Cuyp studied with his father, the portrait painter Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp, with whom he occasionally later collaborated. Beginning with his earliest known paintings of c.1639 and continuing through about 1645, he came under the influence of Jan van Goyen, who must have made several trips to Cuyp’s native city of Dordrecht. In the late 1640’s, however, van Goyen’s influence was replaced by that of the Italianate painters working in Utrecht, notably Jan Both. The success and popularity of Cuyp’s landscape paintings was to earn him the sobriquet ‘the Dutch Claude’, though despite the sunny Italianate landscapes found in much of his mature work, he never seems to have visited Italy. After marrying a wealthy widow in 1658, he appears to have painted somewhat less, and to have gradually abandoned his artistic career.
The present sheet is an outstanding example of Cuyp’s refined draughtsmanship, and is arguably among the finest Dutch landscape drawings of the 17th century to have appeared on the market. The drawing shows a panorama of the artist’s native city of Dordrecht, which lay at the confluence of the rivers Maas (Meuse) and Waal and the smaller rivers Noord and the Dortse Kil. An important trading and shipping centre, the city was depicted by the artist countless times in both paintings and drawings. Indeed, Cuyp rarely travelled away from Dordrecht and the surrounding area, and worked almost exclusively for local patrons.
This drawing was used by Cuyp for the central part of the background of a large painting of the Maas at Dordrecht. Of considerable dimensions, the painting was divided into two parts sometime after 1759, and the two halves are now in different museums; the left half in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the right half in the Museum der bildenden Künste in Leipzig1. The prominent motif of the Grote Kerk, the church which dominates the city of Dordrecht and which is seen near the right of the Leipzig picture, remains just outside the right edge of the composition of the present sheet. However, close examination of the drawing shows, at the extreme right edge of the sheet, what appears to be part of the structure of the church. Cuyp probably used another of his drawn views of Dordrecht as a guide when completing the right side of the painting.
A drawn copy of the entire painting before it was cut down was made in 1759 by the Dutch artist Aart Schouman (1710-1792), who added an inscription dating Cuyp’s picture to 1647; the drawing was on the London art market in 1973 and is now in the Dordrechts Museum2. A terminus post quem of early 1647 for the painting (and, by extension, the present drawing) is certainly indicated by the fact that the composition does not depict some buildings whose construction was begun later that year. Schouman’s inscription to the contrary, however, it has been suggested that the painting – which still shows the influence of Jan van Goyen - should be dated somewhat earlier on stylistic grounds, to the beginning of the 1640’s.
According to J.G. van Gelder, some two hundred drawings by Aelbert Cuyp survive today. However, only a small number of large panoramic views of Dutch cities of similar size and on the same scale as the present sheet are known, all of which are drawn on paper with the same watermark. A group of seven such drawings – including two views of Dordrecht and single views of Arnhem, The Hague, Harderwijk, Leiden and Rhenen – are in the Rijksprentenkabinet in Amsterdam3. Other examples include a View of Rhenen in the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts4, a View of Haarlem from the West in the Teyler Museum in Haarlem5 and a View of Arnhem from the South in the Albertina in Vienna6. Van Gelder further believed that these large oblong views, despite being drawn on the same watermarked paper, were probably executed over a number of years, and he dated the group to between 1645 and 1652.
Like Jan van Goyen before him, Cuyp made many of his landscape drawings on long walks in the countryside. These long, panoramic drawings were probably begun in black chalk on the spot, and completed with coloured washes in the studio, although not all the drawings reached this final stage. As Wouter Kloek has noted of the present sheet, ‘The artist colored the drawing with subtle gray and brown washes, accents in ochre, and reddish brown in some of the roofs. The combination of the faintly sketched cityscape and the broad washes of water with strong reflections lends this drawing an extraordinary richness enhanced by the simplicity of the profile and the complexity of the details.’7 A particular characteristic of Cuyp’s technique as a landscape draughtsman is his use of gum arabic, as seen in the foreground of the present sheet. This was used both to fix the black chalk and to add a richness of tone to the darker areas where the chalk was used, thereby heightening the contrast between the foreground and background and creating a sense of depth.
Although Cuyp used the present sheet for the background of a painting, it was almost certainly not intended as a preparatory study as such. Rather, these highly-finished panoramic drawings appear to have been done as independent works of art, and intended for sale to collectors. The drawings of this distinctive group, as van Gelder notes, ‘[may] have been commissioned by one or more collectors who had a special interest in topographical views. Like all other drawings by Cuyp which can be checked, his large and highly-finished ones are topographically trustworthy. As no single preliminary sketch for them has come to light, it seems highly probable that Cuyp carried with him on his trips – besides sketchbooks – loose sheets of a large size. On them he sketched the views in thin lines and finished them in the studio. He added extra motifs to the foreground, reworked the thin lines with chalk, wash, and again with soft black chalk, and varnished the foreground.’8
The present sheet last appeared in the posthumous sale of Dutch paintings and drawings from the Larsen collection held in New York in 1947, where it fetched $1,000; the highest price of any of the drawings. The drawing has since remained in the collection of Eric Sexton (1902-1980) of Rockport, Maine, and his descendants. Mr. Sexton began collecting drawings in 1928, and, like Larsen before him, his collection was largely dominated by Dutch works.
1. Reiss, op.cit., pp.58-59, nos.29 and 30 respectively, with a reconstructed photomontage of the picture on p.61; van Gelder and Jost, op.cit., p.225, fig.2.
2. The drawing is signed and dated A. Schouman. del 1759 and inscribed A Cuyp. Pinx. 1647. / de Stadt DORDRECHT. London, Sotheby’s, 21 March 1973, lot 36; Reiss, ibid., illustrated p.60; van Gelder and Jost, ibid., p.225, fig.3.
3. Four of these are illustrated in Marijn Schapelhouman and Peter Schatborn, Land and Water: Dutch Drawings from the 17th Century in the Rijksmuseum Print Room, Amsterdam, 1987, pp.38-41. Another view of Dordrecht in the Rijksmuseum, showing a view of the city from the Grote Kerk eastward, is illustrated in Frederik J. Duparc, Landscape in Perspective: Drawings by Rembrandt and his Contemporaries, exhibition catalogue, Cambridge (MA) and Montreal, 1988, p.88, no.21, illustrated in colour p.32.
4. Duparc, ibid., p.89, no.22, illustrated in colour p.33.
5. Michiel C. Plomp, The Dutch Drawings in the Teyler Museum, Vol.II: Artists Born between 1575 and 1630, Ghent and Doornspijk, 1997, pp.120-121, no.102.
6. Marian Bisanz-Prakken, Drawings from the Albertina: Landscape in the Age of Rembrandt, exhibition catalogue, New York, The Drawing Center and Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, 1995, pp.108-111, no.51. The Albertina drawing was for many years divided into two separate sheets, which have only recently been reunited.
7. Wheelock, ed., op.cit., p.248, under no.80.
8. Poughkeepsie, Vassar College Art Gallery, Seventeenth Century Dutch Landscape Drawings and Selected Prints from American Collections, exhibition catalogue, 1976, p.64, under no.46 (entry by J.G. van Gelder and Ingrid Jost).