From the museum website, 26 January 2009
In the 17th-century Netherlands, landscapes emerged as an entirely new class of images in European art. Before that time, landscapes had served simply as backgrounds or settings for religious and secular scenes. However, their portrayal, often quite naturalistically, as subjects in their own right marked a clear departure from former practice.
This exhibition from the museum’s Old Master prints collection was organized by Tanya Paul, the 2001-2002 Museum-McIntire Department of Art Graduate Intern.
“Ultimately, what this exhibition seeks to accomplish is to recognize and explore this significant development in landscape imagery,” said Paul. “These works provide a unique view of both the artistic and cultural climate of the Netherlands in its Golden Age.” Among the earliest proponents were Pieter Bruegel and the artist known as the Master of the Small Landscape. Bruegel was noted for his Alpine landscapes while The Master of the Small Landscape introduced the indigenous, often seemingly unremarkable, landscape as a subject.
From these early developments, the depiction of the natural landscape blossomed into a distinct and influential genre. Numerous artists followed the works of the Master of the Small Landscape in depicting the countryside around them. The unremitting flat and low horizon that distinguishes the Dutch countryside typifies these images. By contrast, another group of artists followed the lead of Bruegel and looked farther south, to Italy, for inspiration in its rocky, mountainous terrain.
During this period, landscape prints were often published in series so buyers could enjoy a vicarious trip through the local countryside without leaving home. The University of Virginia Art museum owns two complete series, one by Jan van de Velde, the other by Claes Jansz Visscher, both in the exhibit. Other artists featured in the exhibit include Hendrik Goudt, Allart van Everdingen and Willem van Nieulandt.