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Dutch Painting

Alpine Landscape with a Fir Tree

Jan Dirksz Both
Late 1640s
42.5 x 61 cm.
Detroit Museum of the Arts, Detroit
Alpine Landscape with a Fir Tree, Jan Both

(c. 1618, Utrecht, d. 1652, Utrecht)

Dutch painter, with Nicolaes Berchem the most celebrated of the Italianate landscape painters. He came from Utrecht, where he studied with Bloemaert before moving to Italy for a period of about four years, c.1637–1641.

Although he died young, his output was large, but none of the more than 300 paintings attributed to him can be convincingly dated to his Italian sojourn. His landscapes are typically peopled by peasants driving cattle or travelers gazing on Roman ruins in the light of the evening sun. Such contemporary scenes were an innovation, for Claude Lorraine and the earlier Dutch painters of the Italian countryside had populated it with biblical or mythological figures. They express the yearning of northerners for the light and idyllic life of the south, and proved immensely popular with collectors, not least in England, helping to shape ideas about Italy for two centuries.

Jan's brother Andries (c. 1612–1641) lived with him in Rome 1639–1641; they are said to have collaborated, but Andries is best known for paintings and drawings of lively peasant scenes that have little in common with Jan's idyllic tone. He was drowned in an accident in Venice.

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