Public domain

The Avenue at Middelharnis

Meindert Hobbema, 1689
The National Gallery, London

If we think about the original meaning and use of the ancient Greek word ‘canon’ as ‘standard’, it is slightly surprising to find The Avenue at Middelharnis as Meindert Hobbema’s contribution to the CODART Canon. Hobbema usually painted richly contrasted wooded landscapes with winding country roads and the occasional habitation, such as the Wooded Landscape (National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh). The Avenue at Middelharnis is very different, with its almost geometrical composition, strong linear central perspective, and the vast sky above a low horizon. It is precisely these features that single it out among Hobbema’s works, making it ‘surprising’, as John Smith, art dealer and author of the first catalogue of the artist’s paintings remarked in 1835. The same year it was first exhibited publicly in London, marking the start of the picture’s career as a canonical Dutch landscape. Ever since it has been inspiring artists, including Vincent van Gogh, David Cox, and, most recently, David Hockney.

Christian Tico Seifert, Senior Curator of Northern European Art, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK


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