Oil on canvas
24 1/2 x 27 1/2 inches (62 x 70 cm)
In both style and subject matter, Adam Pynacker belongs to the group of artists known as the Dutch Italianates. Pynacker spent three years in Italy between 1645 and 1648. His earliest, mostly small-scale, paintings incorporate three elements: evocation of strong Italian light and atmosphere, reproduction of nature in minute detail, and a cool, monochrome palette enlivened by touches of red or ultramarine. His solo travels to Italy were the main inspiration for his subject interest, and his style and composition evolved in a distinct Dutch Italianate tradition. His landscapes depict primarily views of rivers, harbors, and the Roman countryside, often incorporating peasants performing everyday tasks. In the 1650s, Pynacker introduced the theme of hunting in his paintings, which was encouraged by the work of Ludolf de Jongh and Jan Baptist Weenix. In his later career, his paintings became large and more fanciful, occasionally tending toward turbulent images. Though at the end of his career his paintings are set apart from his earlier works by greater stylization, there remains an effect of subtle tonal changes and a pure quality of light.
Our painting, Fishing for Crabs, depicts a beautiful Italianate landscape at sunset. A fallen tree trunk, twisted and encrusted with fungi, dominates the foreground and creates a strong diagonal. To the left, are two figures and a cow performing everyday tasks. The horizontal composition balances a steep cliff and trees at the right against a sloping vista of thin, intertwining trees silhouetted against distant peaks. Tones of coral and ultramarine in the sky behind the alpine hills enliven the earthy palette. The light is of primary importance in the dramatic compositional format: rays from the setting sun maximize the effect of contrasting light and shade, emphasizing the edges of craggy branches and tangled vines in the foreground.