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Jacob Grimmer

Panoramic landscape with shepherds in front of a castle

1571

Panel: 102 x 144.5 cm

Signed and dated Grimmer F. at the bottom. / A° 1571

introduction

Jacob Grimmer's corpus is composed of a great number of works and he is considered one of the main figures in the history of landscape painting. Two elements make this large picturesque landscape particularly surprising: the character in the foreground, a good shepherd leaning on his stick, while behind him is a sumptuous lordly manor.

Jacob Grimmer's corpus is composed of a great number of works and he is considered one of the main figures in the history of landscape painting. The extent of his paintings, as well as their high quality, place him among the finest painters of the genre. The rarity of his works and their rediscovery has now opened up a new chapter in the understanding of this discipline. Faithful to the tradition of rural scenes, the artist adopts a tripartite composition with this Panoramic landscape with shepherds in front of a castle, composed of coloured planes. Two elements make this large picturesque landscape particularly surprising: the character in the foreground, a good shepherd leaning on his stick, while behind him is a sumptuous lordly manor.

First of all, the shepherd draws the viewer to the heart of his lands. The roundness of his limbs and the vividness of his clothes make him a cheerful character. Just like his associates languishing at the foot of a tree or fishing, he represents a time of rest after working in the fields. The latter is leading a flock of sheep, which we can see scattered here and there in the lush meadow. A majestic building stands behind him, relating to Jacob Grimmer's topographic interest, he realistically portrayed the residences of his clients in natural settings. At the time, there was a high demand in the Antwerp art market for depictions of towns and homes of notables. A highly spread subject of commission that drove the art market as people of Antwerp liked to have their country homes portrayed. These works were a sign of one's social status and had a great decorative value. Grimmer therefore profited from this flourishing market by offering Brabant landscapes that varied with the changing seasons. While its character provides the painting with a rural dimension, Grimmer sometimes features men and women of fashion, thus giving his landscape a more gallant aspect. This is the case in the large panel dated 1592 at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (fig.1).

Besides the beauty of the architecture at the heart of this landscape, Grimmer freely uses muted tones and silvery highlights, softening the tonal perspective but opening the horizon with a powerful blue. The general atmosphere is one of contemplation and the admirable lightness of the foliage follows the great tradition of Flemish landscape.

From a structural point of view, there is scarcely any room for elements segmenting the landscape. We can observe natural inclines, a small body of water and animals that have come to drink. Landscapes are no longer the simple décor for a scene; thanks to this artist, it became a genuine pretext to portray a traditional scene of life in Flanders, on the banks of the Scheldt. He passed on his painting technique to his son, Abel, who in turn made landscapes his trademark. We therefore find both the shepherd and the castle in one of Abel’s paintings, arranged in an eminently ethereal manner in a smaller format (fig.2). Dated 1571, this work is among the painter's most significant works. Its grandiloquence supported by the imposing format, perfectly illustrates the unique talent of one of the best protagonists of the landscape genre from northern schools in the second half of the 16th century.


Provenance :
Private collection.

Littérature :
Reine Bertier de Sauvigny, Jacob et Abel Grimmer, catalogue raisonné, La Renaissance du Livre, 1991.

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