VAN DER. NEER Aernout and Eglon van der Neer, father and son, were Dutch painters whose lives filled almost the whole of the 17th century.
I. Aernout Van Der Neer (1603-1677), commonly called Aert or Artus, was the contemporary of Albert Cuyp and Hobbema, and so far like the latter that he lived and died in comparative obscurity. Aernout was born at Gorkum and died at Amsterdam. Houbraken's statement that Aernout had been a steward to a Dutch nobleman, and an amateur painter, before he settled in Amsterdam and acquired skill with his brush, would account for the absence of any pictures dating from his early years. He died in abject poverty, and his art was so little esteemed that the pictures left by him were valued at about five shillings apiece. Even as early as 1659 he found it necessary to supplement his income by keeping a wine tavern. The earliest pictures in which Aernout coupled his monogram of A. V. and D. N. interlaced with a date are a winter landscape in the Rijks Museum at Amsterdam (dated 1639), and another in the Martins collection at Kiel (1642) - immature works both, of poor quality. Far better is the "Winter Landscape" (1643) in Lady Wantage's collection, and the "Moonlight Scene" (1644) in the d'Arenberg collection in Brussels. In 1652 Aernout witnessed the fire which consumed the old town-hall of Amsterdam. He made this accident the subject for two or three pictures, now in the galleries of Berlin and Copenhagen. Though Amsterdam appears to have been constantly van der Neer's domicile, his pictures tell that he was well acquainted with the canals and woods about Haarlem and Leiden, and with the reaches of the Maes and Rhine. Dort, the home of Albert Cuyp, is sometimes found in his pictures, and substantial evidence exists that there was friendship between the two men. At some period of their lives they laid their hands to the same canvases, on each of which they left their joint mark. On some it was the signature of the name, on others the more convincing signature of style. There are landscapes in the collections of the dukes of Bedford and Westminster, in which Cuyp has represented either the frozen Maes with fishermen packing herrings, or the moon reflecting its light on the river's placid waters. These are models after which van der Neer appears to have worked. The same feeling and similar subjects are found in Cuyp and van der Neer, before and after their partnership. But Cuyp was the leading genius. Van der Neer got assistance from him; Cuyp expected none from van der Neer. He carefully enlivened his friend's pictures, when asked to do so, with figures and cattle. It is in pictures jointly produced by them that we discover van der Neer's presence at Dort. We are near Dort in the landscape sunset of the Louvre, in which Cuyp evidently painted the foreground and cows. In the National Gallery picture Cuyp signs his name on the pail of a milkmaid, whose figure and red skirt he has painted with light effectiveness near the edge of van der Neer's landscape. Again, a couple of fishermen with a dog, and a sportsman creeping up to surprise some ducks, are Cuyp's in a capital van der Neer at the Staedel Institute in Frankfort.
Van der Neer's favourite subjects were the rivers and watercourses of his native country either at sunset or after dark. His peculiar skill is shown in realizing transparence which allows objects - even distant - to appear in the darkness with varieties of warm brown and steel greys. Another of his fancies is to paint frozen water, and his daylight icescapes with golfers, sleighers, and fishermen are as numerous as his moonlights. But he always avoids the impression of frostiness, which is one of his great gifts. His pictures are not scarce. They are less valuable in the market than those of Cuyp or Hobbema; but, possessing a charm peculiarly their own, they are much sought after by collectors. Out of about one hundred and fifty pictures accessible to the public, the choicest selection is in the Hermitage at St Petersburg. In England paintings from his brush are to be found at the National Gallery and Wallace Collection, and, amongst others, in the collections of the marquess of Bute and Colonel Holford.
2. Eglon Van Der Neer (1643-1703) was born at Amsterdam, and died at Dusseldorf on the 3rd of May 1703. He was first taught by his father, and then took lessons from Jacob van Loo, whose chief business then consisted in painting figures in the landscapes of Wynants and Hobbema. When van Loo went to Paris in 1663 to join the school from which Boucher afterwards emerged, he was accompanied or followed by Eglon. But, leaving Paris about 1666, he settled at Rotterdam, where he dwelt for many years. Later on he took up his residence at Brussels, and finally went to Dusseldorf, where he entered the service of the elector-palatine Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz. In each of the places where he stopped Eglon married, and having had three wives became the father of twenty-five children. A portrait of the princess of Neuberg led to his appointment as painter to the king of Spain.
Eglon van der Neer has painted landscapes imitating those of his father, of Berchem, and of Adam Elsheimer. He frequently put the figures into the town views of Jan van der Heyden in competition with Berchem and Adrian van der Velde. His best works are portraits, in which he occasionally came near Ter Borch or Metsu in delicacy of touch, de Hooch in effectiveness of lighting, or Mieris in polish of surface. One of his earliest pieces in which the influence of Ter Borch is apparent is the "Lady with the Book," of 1665, which was sold with the Bredel collection in 1875. A young woman in white and red satin at Rotterdam, of 1669, recalls Mieris, whose style also reappears in Eglon's "Cleopatra" at Buckingham Palace. Two landscapes with "Tobit and the Angel," dated 1685 and 1694, in the museums of Berlin and Amsterdam, illustrate his fashion of setting Scripture scenes in Dutch backgrounds. The most important of his sacred compositions is the "Esther and Ahasuerus," of 1696, in the Uffizi at Florence. But Eglon varied his practice also with arrangements of hunting and hawking parties, pastures and fords, and cavalry skirmishes. The latest of his panels is a mountain landscape of 1702 in the gallery of Augsburg. (J. A. C.; P. G. K.)
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