Thomas Wouwerman Landscape Painting Analysis

1772 Words8 Pages
Landscape painting appeared as a prominent genre during the Dutch Golden Age, originating from the Flemish landscapes of the previous century. Philips Wouwerman (1619–1668), perhaps the most representative figure of the city of Haarlem, provided one of the biggest and most significant contributions to the canon of this Dutch tradition of the 17th century. The most significant recurring symbol in Wouwerman’s work is the appearance of horses. The majority of his pieces depict vast landscapes, and all of them render horses: Travellers at Rest (1640–1641), Convoy Under Attack (1644), Cavalry Battle (1646), and Landscape with Horsemen at Rest (1649) are all examples of the representation of the horse in Wouwerman’s work. This fascination with cavalry…show more content…
The former is a simple set-up: a hunting party taking a break by the shore. The scene is framed by his trademark tree, though not as protruding. The background is empty, the sky freckled with some clouds, but with a clear vision of the horizon. In total, there are six people, three of them mounted, and four dogs. The color palette is mostly dark, except for the one white horse mounted by a man in a red coat, the clear focal point. But the image appears stark, frozen in time, like a captured photograph, the animals stiff and the different figures static. In contrast, Cavalry Battle in front of a Burning Mill is anything but still. The titular burning mill is the visual focal point of the painting, consumed by flames and blowing up a cloud of smoke so large it covers the entirety of the background, creating a sense of claustrophobia and suffocation by covering up the sky. It is also a clear representation of his in media res style, which, like Battle Scene, shows the characters scattered all over, where each individual figure is engaged in a different manner with the main…show more content…
His use of colour draws the viewer’s gaze towards these figures, the intended focus, but the manipulation of light also demands attention to other spots, such as the white horse and his rider, and the man holding his hat to the left of him. However, much of the painting retains a sense of anonymity; the man dead center, clutching a trumpet, has his back turned towards the viewer, and most of the other figures remain just out of focus, behind a conveniently placed billowing cloud of smoke. Besides the main characters, most of the figures are faceless, despite being portrayed in ( vivid ) detail. Some are so far in the background their form is indistinguishable. Some are turned the other way, but most are engaged in conflict, intertwined to the point where it is impossible to tell where one figure ends and his enemy begins. It is left unclear who is winning. This evokes the emotion of futility that persecutes war, the sense that a group of nameless men die in vain for their country, because none will be heralded as heroes, but recalled to memory as a number. “Instead of extolling the heroism of military exploits, Wouwerman bears witness to a brutal display of human violence and the suffering that
Open Document