- Museum number
Landscape with small figures; rocky banks with trees on left, buildings in middle ground to right with hills in distance. 1643
Brush and grey wash, with faint areas of brown wash (?)
- Production date
Height: 160 millimetres
Width: 217 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This and another small landscape of c1643 in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 'Landscape with a church' [formerly called 'View of Haarlem'], pencil with pink and grey wash, have always been described as the only surviving drawings by Lely from the period before he came to England. The date of his arrival is not known for certain but was around 1643 and it is possible that the present drawing is a view in England, executed shortly after his arrival, although Oliver Miller considered both to be Dutch in style (see London, NPG 'Lely' exh., 1978, no. 60 (repr).
Literature: M. Royalton-Kisch, "The Light of Nature: Landscape drawings and watercolours by Van Dyck and his contemporaries", exh.cat. Antwerp and London (British Museum), 1999, cat.no.59.
Entry from MRK's 1999 exhibition catalogue:
The drawing is one of just three by Lely from around the time of his arrival in England, where he arrived probably in 1641 or 1643, the date on the present sheet. When he settled in England, Lely 'pursu'd the natural bent of his Genius in Lantschapes with small Figures, and Historical Compositions', according to an early source, a pattern with which the exhibited drawing conforms.
In another landscape study, now in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Lely employed black chalk as well as wash, but in the British Museum drawing he restricted himself to the brush to capture a detailed landscape scene in what amounts to an exceptional display of technical control. The distances here to the right are handled with extraordinary subtlety and dexterity. The third surviving drawing, in the same medium but only recently added to Lely's oeuvre, shows the Haarlem church of St Bavo and is here published as his work for the first time.
Although it is not possible to relate the style of these drawings to that practised by Lely's master, Pieter de Grebber (1573-1649), with whom he was studying in 1637 but by whom no landscape studies are known, there are links with the work of other Dutch artists, including the early drawings of Jan van Goyen. At this stage of Lely's career his style was still far removed from Van Dyck's; yet it seems unlikely that he was responsible, as has been suggested, for the series of gouache landscapes to which cat.58 belongs. Those drawings have a superficial allure, largely due to their colour, but lack the sensitivity that Lely displays both here and in the landscape backgrounds of his paintings, as indeed in all of his autograph output.
Van Dyck's influence was to determine the course of Lely's art from the 1640s, when he may have already begun to collect the older master's drawings, including his Italian Sketchbook (now in the British Museum) and the grisailles relating to the Iconography now in the Duke of Buccleuch's collection at Boughton House. Lely also owned Van Dyck's Portrait of Dorothy, Viscountess Andover and her sister, Lady Thimbleby, which was until 1976 for almost 300 years in the picture gallery at Althorp, for which it was purchased at Lely's posthumous sale in 1682 by the Earl of Sunderland. It is now in the National Gallery.
1 Richard Graham in C.A. Dufresnoy's De arte graphica / The Art of Painting, London, 1695, pp.343-4.
2 British Museum, Gg,2.287. The attribution was made by the compiler in 1993 on the basis of a comparison with the present work. The drawing entered the British Museum with the C.M. Cracherode bequest of 1799, and was attributed to Jacob van Ruysdael in the inventory of 1837. It was published as by an anonymous seventeenth century Dutch artist by Hind, vol.IV, p.131, no.34.
3 Larsen 981.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1995-6 Nov-Apr, BM, Recent Acquisitions (no cat.)
1999 May-Aug, Antwerp, Rubenshuis, Light of Nature (cat.59)
1999 Sep-Nov, BM, Light of Nature (cat.59)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Mount inscribed or stamped with monogram: "W.E." [William Esdaile]
Verso of old backing sheet [now in dossier] inscribed by Esdaile: "George Knapton's colln 1827 WE. P 61 [56 struck through] N555."
George Knapton bequeathed this drawing to General Morrison and it was bought at his sale by William Esdaile, whose mount it is still in [backing removed and drawing re-inlaid into mount by BM Conservation 1993]. At Esdaile's sale it was part of lot 1263, which was described in the catalogue as 'Sketch of a gentleman, and a landscape' bt Cotton 4s6d. It was purchased by Dr Scharf at an anon. sale in 1958 and passed by descent to the owner who consigned it to Sotheby's in 1992.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number