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Gijsbrecht Leytens

Winter landscape animated with villagers

Panel: 48 x 74 cm

introduction

Fifty years ago, this painter was still known as the ‘Master of Winter Landscapes’. He has now been clearly identified, and this Winter landscape animated with villagers is a very fine example of his work. His particular style is immediately recognisable: poetic atmosphere, subtle colours and the ease with which he paints the splendid snow-laden trees.

Just like the landscape in the museum in Aachen, the gigantic tree with its frozen branches imposes itself in the centre of the painting and creates an opening in the woods. On the right-hand side of the painting, another gap opens into the distance by means of an avenue, dotted here and there with bare young trees. These lines that converge towards a vanishing point are reminiscent of the painting in the State Hermitage, which imposingly offers the same perspective.

Like the version in Saint Petersburg, this landscape is highly animated with several villagers dotted around the painting, carrying wood or provisions for the winter. Accompanied by hunting dogs, everyone is going about their business despite the harsh climate. The cottage with the steep roof, visible in the version in Aachen, also features in this painting; here, a wonderful quality of nuances makes it stand out from the sky.

The scene seems to be plunged in an imaginary universe, where the powder pink, subtle yellow, and very pale blue tints, and browns for the shady parts, are highlighted with multiple variations of white. Through these various nuances, the painter imposes his trademark, the source of his continuing success among art-lovers. Strongly inspired by other Flemish masters of the genre, Leytens goes down in history as being the mid-17th century specialist in winter landscapes.

Provenance :
Private collection, France

Littérature :
Yvonne Thiery, Les Peintres flamands de paysage au XVIIe siècle: des précurseurs à Rubens, published by Lefèbvre et Gillet, Brussels, 1988.