Jan van Goyen: (January 13, 1596, Leiden - April 27, 1656, The Hague) was a Dutch landscape painter.
Like many Dutch painters of his time, Jan van Goyen studied art in the town of Haarlem. At age 35, he established a permanent studio at Den Haag (The Hague).
Typically, a Dutch painter of the 17th century (also known as the Dutch Golden Age) will fall into one of four categories, a painter of portraits, landscapes, still-lifes, or genre. Dutch painting was highly specialized and rarely could an artist hope to achieve greatness in more than one area in a lifetime of painting. Jan van Goyen would be classified primarily as a landscape artist with an eye for the genre subjects of everyday life. He painted many of the canals in and around Den Haag as well as the villages surrounding countryside of Delft, Rotterdam, Leiden, and Gouda.
Jan van Goyen would begin a painting using a support primarily of thin oak wood. To this panel, he would scrub on several layers of a thin animal hide glue. With a blade, he would then scrape over the entire surface a thin layer of tinted white lead to act as a ground and to fill the low areas of the panel. The ground was tinted light brown, sometimes reddish, or yellow ocher in colour.
Next, Van Goyen would loosely and very rapidly sketch out the scene to be painted with pen and ink without going into the small details of his subject. This walnut ink drawing can be clearly seen in some of the thinly painted areas of his work. For a guide, he would have turned to a detailed drawing. The scene would have been drawn from life outdoors and then kept in the studio as reference material. Drawings by artists of the time were rarely works of art in their own right as they are viewed today.
On his palette he would grind out a colour collection of neutral grays, umbers, ocher and earthen greens that looked like they were pulled from the very soil he painted. A varnish oil medium was used as vehicle to grind his powered pigments into paint and then used to help apply thin layers of paint which he could easily blend.
The dark areas of the painting were kept very thin and transparent with generous amounts of the oil medium. The light striking the painting in these sections would be lost and absorbed into the painting ground. The lighter areas of the picture were treated heavier and opaque with a generous amount of white lead mixed into the paint. Light falling on the painting in a light section is reflected back at the viewer.
The effect is a startling realism and three-dimensional quality. The surface of a finished painting resembles a fluid supple mousse, masterfully whipped and modeled with the brush. When looking at a Van Goyen painting one can almost feel the wind in the trees laced with the scent of a bluest smoke lingering above a rustic cottage, or taste the salted air near the seashore he painted.