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Art History

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In the American wing of the Allentown art museum is a small painting that hits really close to home. It is called the View on the Lehigh River above Mauch Chunk. This is a genre scene that shows a small homestead in the foreground of a landscape of the Lehigh River. It was painted in 1862. View on the Lehigh River shows what life may have been like living along the Lehigh during that time. Critics have said his work "looks as European as it does American"


Down the hall in the European wing a painting by Aert van der Neer called River

Landscape by Moonlight. It is a small dark painting that is so faint in contrasting colors that the viewer must get very close to it and squint in order to make out all of the objects in the scene. As the title suggests the painting depicts a river landscape, not common for the time. However, in his depiction the river is only visible as the light from the moon is reflecting off of it. The painting is undated, as are most of his works. It's estimated that van der Neer was born between 1603 and 1604 and it is known that he died in 1677. Analyzing and comparing the two pieces, the viewer can recognize many similarities with in the two. The differences are evidently due to the amount of time that had elapsed between when the two painting were completed.

When the viewer approaches River Landscape by Moonlight by a Dutch artist during the Baroque period, the first impression is made by the artist's use of light. It is not uncommon to wonder where the faint light is coming from. A closer inspection will reveal that it is the moon peaking out of the cloud filled sky. The moonbeam's shimmering light directs the viewer down the river, the reflection silhouettes two late night fishermen in the foreground. The river

appears to be the brightest as it fades into the horizon underneath by the moon giving the painting great depth. The rivers contours are outlining by the moonlight reflecting off the water, illuminating the river banks ever so faintly. Moving into the shadows on the near bank of the river is a small house; its window pane catches the moonlight and sends it to the viewer. The space hidden in the shadows that contain the house and the wooden are behind it have

and equal mass to the areas that is illuminated by the moonlight giving the painting a feeling of balance. The artist often used oil pant on wood panel or canvas for his works. He also chose to use a monochrome palette incorporating only black, blue, and white on an ochre ground. The viewer can see that he often used the back of his paint brush or finger in order to remove dark colors this enables the artist to reveal the lighter colors underneath. He became well known

for his nocturnal landscapes. It is said that "he worked from inside his studio and that many of landscapes he created can't be retraced to any particular place" (Aert1).

It's believed that Aert van der Neer didn't start painting until the late 1630's; at which time it is estimated that he was in his late twenties. According to the National Gallery of Art "he first painted winter scenes, partly under the influence of Hendrick Avercamp"(Aert1). His earliest work is dated 1632 however, the most accomplished of his works date from 1645-60. There are only a few of his works that are dated after 1650. In 1658 he and his sons were the keepers of a tavern; he then declared bankruptcy in 1662. At that time his paintings and other belongings appraised for very little. As told by the Wallace Collection he painted until "he died in poverty in Amsterdam on 9 November 1677" (Arnout 2)

When a viewer stops to consider View on the Lehigh River above Mauch Chunk by

Gustavus Johann Grunewald, they are swept back in time, to a time and place where nature was a powerful force, which left a man feeling inferior and vulnerable. The scene depicts an afternoon in the life of the early European settlers to the Lehigh River Valley. The eye rolls down the mountainside in the left foreground to the doorway of the home at the base of the mountain, where the figure of a woman appears. If the viewer follows her gaze down the pathway from her house you will run into a man, perhaps her husband, riding his mule back to the home. As the eye continues down the path towards the river's edge it is discovered that there are more dwellings. This space is emphasized, as it is filled with light emanating down the river valley behind the hillside in the left foreground. This is the only glimpse of the river the viewer gets. However if you follow



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