Private collection, UK
Aert van der Neer began as an amateur figure painter while working as a steward for a wealthy family in Gorinchem. Most likely, the artist studied with Gorinchem landscape painter Robert Camphuysen. After van der Neer married, he returned to Amsterdam around 1630 to run an inn. Two of his sons, Johannes and Eglon, were his students, and indeed, Eglon van der Neer became a highly regarded portrait and genre master.
Like many of his contemporaries, Aert van der Neer continuously struggled with financial difficulties. Together with his son Johannes, he ran an inn at the Kalverstraat, but in 1662, bankruptcy forced him to sell most of his assets, including paintings. van der Neer died in impoverished conditions in 1677. It was not until artists of the Romantic period began to depict moonlight and sunlight as subjects in and of themselves that van der Neer earned the fame that eluded him in his own lifetime.
van der Neer's early work illustrates the predominant influence of elder landscapists, including Esias van de Velde and Hendrik Avercamp. In the second half of the 1640s, he developed a far more personal style, carefully painting balanced, panoramic river landscapes, often of a particularly poetic nature. van der Neer's earliest known dated work is from 1632, and his subjects include winter scenes, landscapes with rivers, or canals, generally depicted at dawn or dusk, views of towns, and marines.
In our picture, Moonlit Landscape, van der Neer captures the poetic empathy of the landscape through the scene’s quiet light. This light takes on a central role in the organization of space: the painting’s design focuses on the brilliant moon, from which a soft light emanates. All the elements of the painting are directed toward this bright globe. Subtle shifts between dark and light lend a seamless quality to the painting, which is further enhanced by the delicate brushwork.