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Esa­ias van de Velde, Dutch, 1587-1630: A Cluster of Trees near a Ruin, c. 1620-25 

This study of trees dis­plays Esa­ias van de Velde’s dis­tinct approach to land­scape, offer­ing a com­pelling sense of the innate char­ac­ter of old, wind­blown trees, as well as sug­gest­ing a remark­able amount of space with­in a small-scale image. He built strik­ing­ly clear zones between fore­ground and back­ground by employ­ing var­i­ous tones and weights of line in his han­dling of the pen. The dark­er, more sat­u­rat­ed brown ink used for the main tree group is also employed in the lines of the ruins to the right to cre­ate a sense of a mid­dle ground, while the lighter and soft­er lines that suf­fuse the back­ground nat­u­ral­ly lend the scene atmos­pher­ic perspective. 

Some of Esaias’s other draw­ings appear to relate to the Peck sheet in terms of sub­ject mat­ter, com­po­si­tion, and scale. One was pre­vi­ous­ly unknown when it emerged on the art mar­ket in 2005 Fig. 11.1.1

Esaias van de Velde, Landscape with High Trees and a Herder
Fig. 11.1

Esa­ias van de Velde, Land­scape with High Trees and a Herder. Pen and ink on paper, 152 × 194 mm. Present where­abouts unknown.

The tree group in this case has been pushed to the left, and var­i­ous ruins and build­ings appear in the far back­ground, seen across a wide flat pold­er. Anoth­er draw­ing, this one signed and dated 1626, retains the cen­tral­ly placed tree group Fig. 11.2.2

Esaias van de Velde (attributed to), Landscape with Trees and Fields
Fig. 11.2

Esa­ias van de Velde (attrib­uted to), Land­scape with Trees and Fields, 1626. Pen and ink on paper, 158 × 192 mm. Lon­don, British Muse­um, inv. no. 1946,0713.1076.6.

As George Keyes point­ed out, the date does not appear to be auto­graph, but there is no rea­son to doubt the year as accu­rate.3

The slight­ly weak­er han­dling of the foliage in this draw­ing, how­ev­er, and the tight­ly crabbed strokes in the ground ele­ments actu­al­ly sug­gest anoth­er hand. It might instead be the work of Van de Velde’s well-known stu­dent, Jan van Goyen (1596 – 1656), who made a num­ber of com­pa­ra­ble pen and ink draw­ings early in his career, most dat­a­ble to the 1620s, that clear­ly dis­play the endur­ing influ­ence of his teacher.4

This draw­ing appears in a sketch­book in the British Muse­um, in which almost all of the other 182 leaves belong to Van Goyen.5

He per­haps made a copy of a now lost Van de Velde draw­ing and added the sig­na­ture and date him­self. A date in the early to mid-1620s also makes sense for the Peck draw­ing along with the one that emerged in 2005 given their relat­ed scale and style. These are among the few pen and ink draw­ings that Van de Velde exe­cut­ed in the 1620s, a decade in which he oth­er­wise pre­dom­i­nate­ly drew in black chalk.6

Some years later, Van Goyen mon­u­men­tal­ized this sub­ject mat­ter in his icon­ic paint­ing Land­scape with Two Oaks Fig. 11.3, demon­strat­ing Van de Velde’s con­tin­ued impact on his for­mer student’s explo­ration of the aged and twist­ed tree group motif.7

Jan van Goyen, Landscape with Two Oaks
Fig. 11.3

Jan van Goyen, Land­scape with Two Oaks, 1641. Oil on can­vas, 88.5 × 110.5 cm. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. sk-a-123.

End Notes

  1. Sotheby’s, Lon­don, 6 July 2005, lot 153.

  2. Keyes 1984, 267 – 68, no. D169.

  3. Idem.

  4. See Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 1, 6 – 17, nos. 1 – 45a, vol. 3, 28 – 33, nos. 1a – 44.

  5. Lon­don, British Muse­um, inv. no. 1946,0713.1076; and Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 1, 257 – 64, no. 844. Beck dated the album circa 1627 – 35, and con­sid­ered four of the 182 draw­ings as by anony­mous artists, and the rest by Van Goyen except the one thought to be by Esa­ias van de Velde. Chris­ti­aan P. van Eeghen restored those four to Van Goyen, and con­sid­ered most of the rest of draw­ings to have been made circa 1626 – 27; see Van Eeghen 1997.

  6. For Van de Velde’s switch to the medi­um of black chalk, see Keyes 1987. Keyes dated the present sheet to circa 1620 based on com­par­i­son with Van de Velde’s draw­ing dated that year, also in the Peck Col­lec­tion (Ack­land Art Muse­um, inv. no. 2017.1.87); see Keyes 1984, 243, no. D94, and 257 – 58, no. D137.

  7. For the paint­ing, see espe­cial­ly C. J. de Bruyn Kops in Ams­ter­dam, Boston & Philadel­phia 1987 – 88, 326 – 28, no. 36.