Jan van der Heyden - VIEW OF A GRACHT IN AMSTERDAM
Jan van der Heyden
VIEW OF A GRACHT IN AMSTERDAM
Oil on panel. 39 x 40 cm.
During his lifetime Jan van der Heyden was already considered to be the most important painter of Dutch town views and renowned for his depictions of Amsterdam, the only other painter comparable being Gerrit Adriasz Berckheyde. Most admired were the refined renditions of stone walls and architectural details that even after his death delighted Arnold Houbraken. But the precise drawing alone does not constitute the beauty of van der Heyden's paintings of the grachten, but their sereneness and poetry, the mysterious harmony between foreground and background, light and shadow. As much as the eye is attracted to the charming details that are displayed so lovingly and with virtuosity into the distance, they never disturb the impression of the whole composition. They do not come forward, instead they inspire deeper submersion into the painting to admire all details, the fine colour application and perspective. At first the plan of van der Heyden's paintings appears almost accidental, but the differences in every single canal show how carefully the artist planned the coincidence in his paintings' composition. Mostly, the view is led diagonally into the distance, often interrupted by a bridge's reflection in calm water. A particular role is played by light. Van der Heyden mostly painted during very low sunlight that produced interesting effects, fleeting lights and contrasts. The sky is often cloudy and the light is falling irregularly onto the scene. The bridges' arches and trees capture this play of light. His best paintings are never colourful. For all his love of
local colours, they are so compatible to form a still harmony. Reflection of houses and bridges in dark water enliven the centre. The city's atmosphere is captured in such a lively way that the Amsterdam paintings are his absolute masterpieces. The figures of the staffage also add to the varied and lively impression. Very often, as also in this painting, they are by Adrian van de Velde. The type of bridge is that of the Heren and Keizer canals in Amsterdam, in the western part of town (H. Wagner op. cit.).
Backofen Collection, Basel 1919. - E. Paravicini-Backofen Collection, Basel 1932. - Vischer-Backofen Collection, Basel 1934. - Collection of Lady Gleconner. - Auction Sotheby´s, London, 14.12.1977. - Private collection, Germany.
Helga Wagner: Jan van der Heyden, Amsterdam and Haarlem 1971, no. 89, ill. p. 146.
Kunstverein Basel: Kunstwerke aus Baseler Sammlungen, 1928, no. 130.