Neer, Van Der
cuyp eglon pictures amsterdam aernout
NEER, VAN DER. Aernout and Eglon van der Neer, father and son, were painters whose lives almost filled the whole of the 17th century.
I. AERNOUT VAN DER NEER; commonly called Aart or Artus, was the contemporary of Albert Cuyp and Hobbema, and so far like the latter that he lived and died in comparative obscurity. Houbraken, who knew something of Eglon, was without information as regards his father. He merely noted that Aernout had been steward to a Dutch nobleman, and an amateur painter, before he settled at Amsterdam and acquired skill with his brush. According to common chronology Aernout was born in 1619 and died in 1691 ; but neither of these statements is supported by any proofs. 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 collection of Lord Overstone and a sunset in the museum of Gotha. Both pieces were finished, if we grant the genuineness of the inscriptions, in 1643, the year of Eglon's birth at Amsterdam. In 1652 Aornout, still faithful to his old haunts, witnessed the fire which consumed the old town-hall of Amsterdam.
He made this accident a subject for two or three pictures in the galleries of Berlin and Copenhagen, probably on commission from merchants of the city of his choice. But, though Amsterdam appears to have been constantly Van der Neer's domicile, he was not so sedentary in his habits as to neglect the rest of Holland. His pictures tell that he was well acquainted with the canals and woods about Haarlem and Leyden, and proofs are at hand to show that he was familiar 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 were relations of friendship and neighbourhood 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 indelible signature of style. The partnership may not have been of long duration. It was unequal, and illustrated in a few landscapes only, but these, as well as contemporary works of Cuyp alone, reflect sufficient light on Van der Neer's career. There are landscapes in the collections of the dukes of Bedford and Westminster, as well as in that of Colonel Neeld, 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. His specialties were moonlights and sunsets on canals and estuaries, or winter landscapes with skaters and ball players. 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 both that we discover Van der Neer's presence at Dort. We are near Dort in that landscape sunset of the Louvre, in which Cuyp evidently painted the foreground and cows. In the National Gallery 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. We recognize the partners in a sunset which was exhibited at Manchester when owned by Mr Francis Edwards. 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 in Frankfort.
Van der Neer has been known to paint a smithy, with figures alternately lighted by the sun and the blacksmith's fire (Oppenheim collection at Cologne), but habitually his subjects were the rivers and water-courses of his native country either at sunset or after dark. Sometimes the moon sheds its light on tall trees and gables and windmills. 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. He cleverly manages reflexions in water, and balances the light on one side of a canal with dark masses of shadow on the other. His greatest subtlety is displayed in combining the lurid glare of fires with the cooler serenity of moonlight. Burger says he inspired Van der Peel with such a love of midnight fires that this unfortunate artist was induced to burn incalculable numbers of cities and hamlets. 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. According to the latest documentary evidence discovered in Holland, Aernout van der Neer was living at Amsterdam when he purchased the freedom of the city of Gouda in 1685. He is said to have resided at Rotterdam in 1691. But in 1692 he married a second wife at Gouda ; and so the date usually assigned to his death receives correction. Out of about one hundred and fifty pictures accessible to the public, the choicest selection is in the Hermitage at St Petersburg. In England the largest collector is Sir Richard Wallace. But there .are good specimens in numerous English galleries besides.
II. EGLON VAN DER NEER, born at Amsterdam in 1643, died at Diisseldorf on the 3d of May 1703. He was first taught by his father, and then took lessons from Jacob Vanloo, whose chief business then consisted in painting figures in the landscapes of Wynants and Hobbema. When Vanloo went to Paris in 1663 to join the school from which Boucher afterwards came, he was accompanied or followed by Eglon. But, leaving the French capital about 1666, he settled at Rotterdam, where he dwelt for many years. Later on he took up his residence at Brussels, and finally came to Diisseldorf, 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 modern French critic has observed that the burden of so large a family was as nothing to Eglon's misfortune in having taught the arts to Van der Werff.
Eglon van der Neer has painted landscapes imitating those of his father, of Berchem and Adam Elsheimer. He frequently put the figures into the town views of Jan van der Heyden in competition with Berchem and Adrian van de Velde. His best works are portraits, in which he occasionally came near Terburg 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 Terburg 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 he 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.)