330 Years Posthumous Fame
as the „Best Moonlight Painter of the Dutch School“
Aert van der Neer
1677 – 2007
In Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of April 6, 2004, Dirk Schümer concluded his review of the Genoa exhibition The Age of Rubens with the remarkable statement
“ … There it does well to study the economical globalization about 1600 when the rich still knew
that one can enjoy capital only
by transforming it into art .”
And therewith attains together the good chance to secure a piece of immortality for the own name. May it be within the scope of a collection grown to a work of art of sui generis , as donator or simply as living on in the lists of provenance being sure of highest attention forever. It was the wealth imported from India of the merchants in particular, indeed, standing behind the height of art in the Netherlands of the 17th century. But if there is spoken of the Golden Age of this epoch only the art is the synonym pure and simple.
Two colums carried this in its density and deepness quite unique and unrepeated artistical golden century cosmos. The pictorally luxuriant Flemish art in the Spanish Netherlands in the south with Rubens as fixed star and that of the northern Seven Provinces in its restrained charm as ambassador not least of the poetry of the flat country and with Rembrandt as the hub there.
While in August we remembered the 350th day of death of Frans Snyders as the “most important still life and animal painter of Flemish art, maybe even of his epoch” (catalog Berlin/Dahlem, 1975, page 405), so today the 330th of the northern grand master Aert van der Neer as the
“ best moonlight painter of the Dutch school ”
(Hofstede de Groot, [Describing and Critical Catalog of the Works of the Most Important Netherlandish Artists of the 17th Century], vol. VII , p. 360). And regarding van der Neer the great Bode calls in the frame of his elite corps of the [Master of the Dutch and Flemish Painters Schools] of that century Arnold Houbraken (1660-1719) into the witness stand with the words “… and became fameous by carefully executed landscapes, especially by landscapes at moonlight” (Bode, 2nd ed., 1922, p. 199).
And Bode himself resumes:
“ … the finer the tone light effect, the richer the very refined construction. A river or a canal drawing itself far into the landscape gives the pictures deepness and piquant perspective … If one wants to become clear about the originality of the artist one does well to compare him with the greatest. In his interiors like in his landscapes, among which just one remarkable moonlight landscape with the Rest on the Flight of 1647 is preserved (in Dublin; Schwartz, Rembrandt. All Paintings in Color, 1983, no. 276), Rembrandt lets fall a bright ray of light into the darkness covering everything. Aert van der Neer however handles it in reverse order; he sets dark shadows into the general brightness, even in his moonlight pictures, whose luminousness he enhanced as ever possible in the interest of the clearness of the shadows and the pictorial record … In the magic appeal of the effect Rembrandt beats the companion thereby by far,
but van der Neer is truer and more manifold .
No one has studied these peculiar lights and their effect on the landscape so intensively, expressed a fullness of the finest observations, so fascinating moods … By it, looked at more closely, the same motifs offer the greatest variety ”
(Bode, op. cit., pp. 204 ff.).
“ With the night scenes it is almost always the rather low full moon that … conjures reflections on the water and the windows of the buildings. The late evening hours of autumn and spring are depicted when man still works outside, as long as darkness has not fallen fully …
The thematic field described here
is commanded by v. d. Neer as by no one else .
He is the best moonlight painter of the Dutch school and in the winter landscapes only Jacob van Ruisdael equaled him and only Rembrandt surpassed him with the one and only small winter picture we possess by him (in Cassel, Schwartz, op. cit., color ills. 289) … A special fascination he imparts to his creations also by the reflections of the light on the water … and on all that reflects light at all ”
(Hofstede de Groot, op. cit., pp. 360 ff.).
Here then also such
“ a night by moonlight pervaded by the light ”
as van der Neer succeeded in only in the ’50s, thereby free of the again increasing blackness “as (with) many works from the late years” (Bachmann, Aert van der Neer, 1982, pp. 47 + 142 ) and with just the shitting man as anecdotal allowance for a new present up to its provocative eyes contact with the beholder :
Seen from rather high point with the river coming from front left and tapering off in a right angle widely into the distance accompanied by banks on both sides. Above it standing quite high the full moon with halo, with its light being reflected in the ending water before the dark strip of land running across through the front, interspersed with both isolated and tufted reed and iris repoussoir. Numerous fishing boats losing themselves in the distance, mostly under sail, and boats, four of the latter of which big in the foreground just as, too, a rigged up twomaster – if not two single-masted crafts lying closely side by side, see below – behind the spit of the dominantly raised left bank to which four wide steps lead up stoop-like and whose mighty trees towering over three thatched cottages/huts of different size, fresh and dense in leaf and united at the top in an arch, occupy about the full height of the painting. Before the cottages man with stick, accompanied by his dog, rambling to the left, while a woman with a dish is about to enter the widely situated frontmost hut, and a fisherman with hook and tackle thrown over, walking into the picture, makes for the fence above the said twomaster over which more lies for drying.
On the flat right bank with its spits likewise set back a property as well as vista of a presumed place. As repoussoir here especially in front a modestly higher tree besides lateral high trunk broken by the winds and about dead. Rich figuration of any size spread over the whole picture on land and in the boats, partly pertinently occupied, so the fisherman in the boat right in front right with his weirs. The moon’s halo predicting shitty weather could have its counterpart in the man in the front center sitting before his boat shitting into the water.
Oil on oak panel. 18 × 24⅞-25 in (45.6 × 63.2-63.4 cm). In refreshed handmade frame of supposedly about 1920.
Offer no. 14,800 / comprehensively researched detail documentation on application
While the introduction to the Snyders commemorative offer gave occasion to remind of his generous last will by which the princely painter, died in his Antwerp house in the Keizerstraat characteristically called fortuyne, circumspectly had thought of everything and anyone, so for van der Neer remain the after-words of poorest dying in an Amsterdam attic and the remark that the children entered upon the inheritance only under reserve. While the rich had yearned for Snyders’ brilliant still lifes and animal pieces filling whole halls already for life, so van der Neer should have seen obviously better days, too – “Excellent pictures in also large format were repeated by himself because they met with the approval of customers” – , before a changed prevailing taste pushed him aside and
“ Only after his death his work was highly esteemed .
Now the collectors and princely galleries tried to get
a moonlight landscape ;
the prices paid for that forced up … ”
His art was widely well-known then; in Holland one spoke of ‘maaneschijntjes’ und ‘wintertjes’ and in Germany of ‘Day-van-der-Neers’ and of ‘Night-van-der-Neers’. Also Goethe had a precise idea of that. In a letter from Naples of May 30, 1787, and in his report on the travel to Rhine and Main (1814-15) he mentions the artist especially ”
(Bachmann, op. cit., pp. 11 + 15).
And this posthumous fame remained durably like that of Frans Snyders. There the golden age’s “most important still life and animal painter of the Flemish”, here “the best moonlight painter of the Dutch school”. As indisputables both serve in Bode’s elite corps. The differences between their lives – time has leveled out them, the greatness of their œuvre united them.
“ Subject: Thanks!
Thanks for your kind reply. I wanted to comment that your thoughts on freedom (the quote that you had on the end of your message to me) are exactly the same as my beliefs.
I write, however, because I was surprised to get it from Europe … Although an American, almost all my early family were Huguenots … In fact, my relative, Jan C. is noted as the earliest C. to have arrived in N. America (in 1636, I think) … ”
(Mrs. C. F., November 14, 2003)