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Dutch Painting

The Alley at Middelharnis

Meindert Hobbema
Oil on canvas, 103.5 x 141 cm.
The National Gallery, London
The Alley at Middelharnis, Meindert Hobbema

Meyndert HOBBEMA
Amsteddam 1638–Amsterdam 1709

Meyndert Hobbema was born in 1638 in Amsterdam. He adopted the name Hobbema as a young man, though it does not appear to have been used by his father. He was a pupil of Jacob van Ruisdael, who testified in 1660 that Hobbema served and learned with the for a few years. Though he learned from the example of other landscape artists, Hobbema was very close to his master for several years, even on one occasion basing a painting on an etching by Ruisdael. By the time he was twenty-five, Hobbema was at the height of his powers and the rival of his master. Though he never achieved the range or profundity of Ruisdael, he was a much more fluent painter and his sparkling, tightly wrought, and well-wooded landscapes, though repetitious, are approaching perfection. Then, in 1668, his thirtieth year, he married the kitchen-maid of an Amsterdam burgomaster and became one of the wine-gaugers of the Amsterdam octroi, a form of customs and excise officer. The post was well-paid and he held it to the end of his long life, a further forty-one years. And for forty-one years, he appears to have painted little. Until recently it was believed by art historians that he had stopped painting altogether after 1668. For a long time the date on the famous Avenue, Middelharnis in the National Gallery, London, was read as 1669 because it appeared incredible that this masterpiece had been painted long after Hobbema's other major works. But as a result of recent cleaning the date has been shown to be 1689, and now more paintings-though still relatively few-have been related to those later years. Hobbema died in Amsterdam on 7 December, 1709.
The Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer, John Nash, London, 1972

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