Haarlem was transformed during the early seventeenth century by a elaborate network of dams and waterways. Wide forested valleys and vast flat planes were reclaimed from the sea, which inspired artists to reassess the beauty and mystery of the surrounding landscape. As a genre, landscape painting did not exist at this time and was considered merely a backdrop to religious and mythological scenes.
Jan Wynants was one of the first generation of Dutch artists to set up easel near the shores of the new waterways. The son of a Haalem art dealer, Wynants found refuge in the woodland outside the city. He painted panoramic summer valleys, dense deciduous forests and rolling sand dunes which convey a more advanced understanding of space and distance than can be found in the tightly painted craftsman-like works of his contemporaries. Wynants became one of the Masters of the Dutch Golden Age.
In this serene landscape, sportsmen and their hunting dogs converse on a winding, sandy road which leads towards a hazy, distant sun-lit bay. The withered tree in the foreground that frames the composition with its ancient, gnarled branches was a recurrent motive in Wynant’s work, laden with private symbolism. The figures were inconsequential to the artist and were assigned to friends and studio assistants. Adriaen van de Velde or J. Lingelbach are the most likely to have painted them in a Hunting Party in a Classical Landscape.
Klaus Eisele, the Wynants authority, describes this work as a fine painting, most likely an imaginary landscape view, which does not represent any specific scene. A similar work, which may be some years earlier, is hung in the Gallery of Hanover.
The Leicester Galleries, 1996
Private Collection to 2002