Aelbert Jacobsz Cuyp was one of the leading Dutch landscape painters, belonging to the most famous family of painters of the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. The Dutch equivalent of Claude Lorrain, Cuyp is particularly noted for his poetic use of light and atmosphere in his landscapes. In his initial paintings, the landscapes have occasional cattle and human figures but in his later works more expansive settings like the banks of the Mass and Wall near Dordrecht can be seen. Apart from landscapes, some of his paintings depict animals or historical pieces and some are portraits. All his paintings are submerged in a soft glow of light - something that gives them an ethereal essence and unique poetic sensibility. This experiment had its foundation in his observations of the optical effects of moist atmosphere. His painting style incorporated the broken-brush technique from Jan van Goyen and Italianete lighting from Jan Broth. Cuyp signed all his paintings, but dated very few of them. This makes it hard to create an authentic chronology of his works. Abraham van Calraet was an ardent follower of Aelbert Cuyp and mimicked his style in a number of landscapes to such an extent that it becomes difficult to distinguish their work. The problem becomes more pronounced as they had the same initials.
Childhood & Early life
Aelbert Cuyp was born in Dordrecht, Netherlands, on October 20, 1620.
Cuyp belonged from a family of artists. His uncle Benjamin and grandfather Gerrit were stained glass cartoon designers. His father, Jacob Gerritszoon Cuyp was a famous portraitist.
Cuyp received his training in painting from his father whose painting style and content is reflected in Cuyp’s paintings.
After the death of his father in 1651 and mother in 1654, Cuyp inherited a large property and became one of the richest citizens of Dordrecht.
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In the early 1640s, Aelbert Cuyp was influenced by the painting style of Jan van Goyen.
This is noticeable in his use of the straw yellow and light brown tones and the broken-brush technique in two of his famous paintings, ‘River Scene, Two Men Conversing’ that was finished in 1641 and ‘Hilly Landscape with Cows and Shepherds’ in 1665.
In 1655, Cuyp produced ‘Young Herdsmen with Cows’, a landscape showing his use of aerial perspective and illusions of vast depth.
His second stylistic phase developed under the influence of Jan Both who returned to Utrecht in the mid-1640s.
Jan Both was influenced by the lighting style of Claude Lorrain’s paintings in Rome and Cuyp used the same style to his advantage in creating ‘River Landscape with Horseman and Peasants’ (1658-60) of the Boymans-Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam and ‘Travelers in a Hilly Landscape’ (1650-52).
Cuyp painted very little during the last 20 years of his life.
One of Cuyp’s famous paintings is ‘The Mass at Dordrecht’, a view of the banks of the Maas and Waal near Dordrecht, completed in the early 1650s. Dordrecht’s scenic beauty had been the subject matter of Cuyp’s paintings time and again. It is seen in his ‘The Maas at Dordrecht in a storm’(1648-50), Dordrecht harbor by moonlight (1643-45). Some of his other major compositions are ‘The Mussel Eater’ (1650), ‘Cows in a River’ (1654), ‘The Negro Page’ (1652).
Personal life & Legacy
In 1658 Cuyp married Cornelia Boschman, a widow with three children. They had a daughter the following year.
Cuyp’s artistic productivity declined after his marriage. It is believed that his wife who was a devout Christian did not approve of Cuyp’s occupation.
In 1659, he sold his father’s house on the Nieubrugge and, in 1663, moved to Wijnstraat, where he lived till his death.
In 1659, he became the deacon of the Reformed Community.
In 1667, he was selected as an elder of the Church Council and in 1682, he became a member of the Tribunal of Eight for the Southern Provinces.
When his wife Cornelia died in 1689, Cuyp began living with his daughter and son-in-law, who was the proprietor of a brewhouse, ‘le Lis’.
He died on November 15, 1691 in Dordrecht.