collections
European

Mathias Winthoos

Netherlands 1627/9-1703
Fishing Docks 25.0319

Still-life painting (from the Dutch stilleven) was a profitable specialty for 17th-century Dutch artists. Along with landscape painting, it originally functioned as a setting and symbolic statement in altarpieces and other religious art. Its proliferation in the 16th and 17th centuries may have been a result of the Iconoclasm of 1566, when during a three-month period, thousands of religious images were destroyed by Protestants. Less controversial than religious imagery, still life and landscape art could relay a moral message as well, on the brevity of life or the benefits of industry. Mathias Withoos (Vitose) has combined both landscape and still life in this painting of the docks, depicting, in the background, industrious Dutch fishermen and their hardworking wives, and an array of traps, nets, and marine life in the foreground. This provides Withoos the challenge of painting contrasting textures and reflective qualities in great variety. Withoos studied for six years at Jacob van Campen's school for painters at Tandenbroeck, near Withoos' home town of Amersfoot. In 1648 Withoos went to Italy to study and paint, returning to the Netherlands in 1653. Withoos' favorite genres included still-lifes and landscapes. He was also fond of setting arrangements resembling still-lifes against panoramic landscape backgrounds or harbor scenes of Amersfoot as he seems to have done in this painting.

 

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