Pieter de Molijn, Dutch, 1595-1661:
Cottages in the Dunes, 1659
Black chalk with gray-brown wash on paper; framing lines in black chalk, with an additional line in brown ink on lower border.
7 1⁄2 × 10 7⁄8 in. (19.1 × 27.6 cm)
Recto, upper right in black chalk, signed and dated by the artist, PMolyn / 1659; verso, lower right in pencil, 304 and Molyn.
Horizontal, 23 – 25 mm.
Foolscap with Five Bells.
Paul Mantz, 1821 – 1895, Paris; his sale, Chevallier, Paris, 10 May 1895, lot 145; E. Warneck; her sale, Chevallier, Paris, 10 May 1905, lot 202b; sale, Sotheby Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, 18 November 1980, lot 100; dealer, C. G. Boerner, Düsseldorf, 1981 (Neue Lagerliste 74, no. 21); dealer, Ars Libri, Boston, 1985; Sheldon and Leena Peck, Boston (Lugt 3847); gift to the Ackland Art Museum, inv. no. 2017.1.55.
Beck 1998, 160 – 61, no. 333; F. Robinson in Chapel Hill, Ithaca & Worcester 1999 – 2001, 72 – 73, no. 20.
Pieter de Molijn was a pioneer of the sandy, hilly, and windswept environments characterizing the dune landscapes popular in the seventeenth century. He often portrayed the extensive dunes west of Haarlem in the coastal region called the Kennemerland. In this drawing, cottages are nestled between a stand of trees beneath a partially overcast sky. To indicate texture and movement, De Molijn used a variety of spiky, rounded, and parallel strokes of black chalk, while delicately applied layers of wash provide form and depth. Such late career works, signed and dated by the artist, were enormously popular on the contemporary art market for their naturalistic appearance.
Pieter de Molijn (or Molyn) was a highly regarded painter in Haarlem during his lifetime, though his reputation today rests largely on his numerous drawings, around 500 of which survive.1
He devoted most of his career to making landscapes, many of which reveal his interest in the extensive dunes to the west of Haarlem in the coastal region known as the Kennemerland. This sandy, hilly, and windswept environment, while clearly not ideal for farming, nevertheless boasted a number of inhabitants in the seventeenth century, many undoubtedly living in cottages like the ones seen here nestled in a stand of trees. De Molijn has been credited as a pioneer of the “dune landscape,” along with Salomon van Ruysdael (1600/03 – 1670), Jan van Goyen (1596 – 1656), and the little-known painter Pieter van Santvoort (1604/05 – 1635), though the exact origins of this distinctive subgenre remain obscure.2
Attesting to the respect De Molijn received as an artist, along with his various positions of leadership in the guild, is the statement by Theodorus Schrevelius (1572 – 1649) in his 1648 history of Haarlem that he was one of the two best landscape painters then working in the city, along with Cornelis Vroom (1590/92 – 1661).3
Although dune landscapes were his primary specialty, he also treated a number of other subjects throughout his career, including foreign or foreign-seeming landscapes. There is clear evidence that De Molijn spent some time in Rome early in his career (despite occasional assertions to the contrary), though he never became a specialist in Italianate landscape subjects like so many of his Haarlem colleagues.4
Judging from the number of his signed and dated sheets from the 1650s that survive, the market for De Molijn’s drawings in this decade must have been enormous.5
This drawing in the Peck collection, one of his last, marks a high point in his late drawing style. He articulated the many compositional elements with a dense and particularly expressive vocabulary of strokes. These range from short spiky lines to more rounded ones in the foliage, and delicate parallel strokes for hatching the thatched roofs and the soft reflections of the pond in the foreground. In many of his sheets from the 1650s, he also applied carefully controlled layers of wash to enhance textures and to create a greater sense of depth, whereas in his earlier drawings he tended to use either pen or chalk alone. Seen here in the tree on the left is his technique of extending the foliage by brushing the wash just beyond the limits of the black chalk lines that delimit the branches. What De Moljin brilliantly conveyed is not just a range of surface qualities but also the evocative convergence of oblique angles. The sagging roof of the cottage, the leaning picket fence, the trees steadfastly resisting the stiff breeze, and the road that veers off into the distance all combine in a unified sweep of motion.
For De Molijn’s corpus of drawings, see Beck 1998. For his biography, see especially I. van Thiel-Stroman in Biesboer et al. 2006, 246 – 49. For his life and works generally, see Allen 1987.
See Liedtke 2003 for a thorough restatement of the issue, giving greater weight to De Molijn’s role. See also Boers 2017, which redresses the issue of reputation.
De Molijn signed the album amicorum of Wybrand de Geest (1592 – 1672/80) in Rome in 1618; see I. van Theil-Stroman in Biesboer et al. 2006, 246.
For signed and dated works from the 1650s, see Beck 1998, 114 – 62, nos. 198– 336. De Molijn also made a considerable number of autograph replica drawings in these years, for which see Beck 1997. For one of these replica drawings in the Ackland Art Museum (inv. no. 78.20.1), see Beck 1997, 347, no. 8B, 349, fig. 11; Beck 1998, 191, no. 419; and T. Riggs in Gillham & Wood 2001, 58 – 59, no. 18.