Cornelis Christiaan Dommelshuizen was born in Utrecht in 1842. He was primarily self-taught and traveled to America, Belgium, England and France, where he became familiar with the schools of painting predominant in each of those countries. He eventually settled in The Hague, and specialized in painting town scenes, scenes on the water, and views along riverbanks. He exhibited in Amsterdam from 1860 until 1892, as well as in various places throughout Holland. He was also known to have signed his name as C. Dommerson, as well as Chr. Dommelshuizen.
In our painting, Dommelshuizen skillfully renders a capriccio, or fantasy view, of a Dutch city, combining well-known buildings from the cities of Groningen, Leiden, and Utrecht. Use of the capriccio was common for artists working in Italy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These included masters such as Claude Lorraine and Giovanni Paolo Panini, who painted such scenes for tourists traveling to Rome. Famous sites were depicted in a single landscape, which served as a visual record of the many places the traveler had visited. In this canvas, Dommelshuizen adopts this method to a Dutch view, linking his homeland with a well-established classical tradition.
This idealized architectural panorama is steeped in the soft light of the late afternoon. The imposing size of the canvas is relieved by the sensitivity with which the artist handles his subject. A landscape of stone pathways weaves alongside a canal, as tall stone buildings stretch elegantly into the sky. Calming patterns of everyday life are carried out within the space of the picture, organized by way of the architectural lines and planes of buildings, walkways and a bridge. The light and color grow warmer and brighter as the space within the painting recedes. This use of color, the forms of the buildings, and the depictions of the townspeople all lend veracity to Dommelshuizen’s depiction of 17th Century Dutch life, as communicated by the artist through the poetic language of his painting.