Aelbert Cuyp painting was sawn in two

Proof finally presented ahead of In the Light of Cuyp exhibition opening on 3 October 2021

The suspicion was already there for quite some time, but now there is conclusive proof: two city views by Aelbert Cuyp that have been displayed as two separate paintings for centuries turn out once to have been one wide painting. They are View of the Maas near Dordrecht at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and View of Dordrecht at the Museum der bildenden Künste in Leipzig. The exhibition In the Light of Cuyp in the Dordrechts Museum will reunite both works for the first time since they were separated.
The paintings are two early river views by Cuyp, of practically the same size and painted on wood panels. Both paintings show a part of the Dordrecht skyline. They seem two companion pieces. However, striking is that they are not independent compositions that complement each other, but the image continues perfectly from one painting to the other. Already in 1972, suspicion arose that they were the halves of one wide panel. A drawing of both pieces attached, made by painter Aert Schouman in 1759, seemed to suggest that they formed one painting at the time. Still, experts remained in doubt: such an extremely wide panel would have been very unusual.
The question of whether the works originally were joined has been answered by scientific research. Already in 2012 the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig published a catalogue raisonnée (Jan Nicolaisen, Niederländische Malerei 1430-1800, Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig), in which research in collaboration with the conservator Rüdiger Beck from the Leipzig museum was published, which confirmed that both paintings belong together. The Dordrechts Museum has done further in-depth research in collaboration with the Los Angeles and Leipzig museums. Conservator Lidwien Speleers of the Dordrechts Museum accumulated all data and will disclose the new research findings in the exhibition catalogue that is soon to be published. The horizontal boards of both panels are of exactly the same measurements. The ground layers appear to be the same, and X-rays show that the brush strokes and the woodgrain continue from one painting to the other. Conclusion: both works formed originally one painting.
When the wide city view was sawn into halves is less easy to determine. However, it must have been after 1759, when Aert Schouman made his copy, and before 1821, when one half was in an Amsterdam collection.
The research of the two panels was done in close collaboration with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum der bildenden Künste in Leipzig. Thanks to the exhibition In the Light of Cuyp, both panels are brought together again. After the show in Dordrecht, both panels will go to Leipzig to be on display there.

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of Aelbert Cuyp (1620-1691) the Dordrechts Museum is organising a large exhibition about the Dutch artist and his impact on English landscape painters. In the light of Cuyp. Aelbert Cuyp & Gainsborough – Constable – Turner will be held from 3 October 2021 to 6 March 2022. Cuyp, the master of hazy, golden evening light, is Dordrecht’s most famous painter. The exhibition will show around 30 of his most important paintings, temporarily bringing them back to the city where they were made. For the first time In the light of Cuyp will focus on the appreciation of Cuyp and his influence on British painters with over 30 works by famous artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable and J.M.W. Turner amongst others.

Left: Aelbert Cuyp, View of the Maas near Dordrecht, c. 1645, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Right: Aelbert Cuyp, View of Dordrecht, c. 1645, Leipzig, Museum der bildenden Künste

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