Style and Technique in the Evolution of Naturalism: North Netherlandish Landscape Painting in the Early Seventeenth Century
Gifford, Elizabeth Melanie
Wheelock, Arthur K. Jr.
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This study of painting technique and style offers evidence of the beginnings of a landscape painting tradition native to the Northern Netherlands. The moment of decisive innovation can be found in Esaias van de Velde's naturalistic landscape paintings. Independent landscape painting developed in the Southern Netherlands in the early 16th century in the fantastic "world landscape" style of artists such as Joachim Patinir and Herri Bles. Technical study suggests that they developed a widely-followed set of painting practices as well. These meticulous techniques contributed to the stylistic continuity of Mannerist landscape painting into the 17th century, and facilitated collaboration in the prolific Antwerp workshops of artists such as Jan Brueghel and Joos de Momper. In the Northern Netherlands, landscape painting became a recognized specialty only in the 1580s and 1590s as artists emigrated from the South. Though painters such as Gillis van Coninxloo and Roelandt Savery helped to develop the influential forest landscape, they painted in the traditional Antwerp procedures. Graphic artists in Haarlem and Amsterdam in the 1610s built on a different 16th-century tradition – Pieter Bruegel's landscape drawings and the prints of the Master of the Small Landscapes – to create newly naturalistic landscape drawings and prints. In etchings depicting the local landscape they codified a new set of artistic conventions that conveyed an impression of direct observation. Esaias van de Velde, also in Haarlem, soon adapted this graphic vocabulary in innovative landscape paintings depicting local scenery. By limiting his palette and reducing the steps in the painting process he abandoned the century-old tradition of painting technique He consciously quoted the stippled handling and sketchy immediacy of landscape etchings with his rapid brushwork and with elements of the painting structure – the panel’s wood grain and the underdrawing – that he incorporated into the image. These technical innovations culminated in the work of the tonal landscape painters such as Jan van Goyen.