My Daily Art Display today continues examining the life of the seventeenth century Flemish painter Jan Siberechts and taking a look at some of the paintings he completed after he moved his home to England. In my previous blog I talked about Siberechts’ early landscape paintings which followed the style of the Dutch Italianate artists of the time. Then, in the early 1660’s, he worked on a number of paintings depicting Flemish rural life and the life of the peasant community.
In 1672, at the age of forty-five, Siberechts’ life changed. Two years earlier, George Villiers, the second Duke of Buckingham, whilst on business in the southern Netherlands came across some of Siberechts’ work. He was so enamoured by what he saw that he invited the artist to come to England and help decorate his Italianate mansion, Cliveden, which was situated on the bank River Thames near the town of Windsor and which he had built six years earlier. Jan Siberechts agreed to move home to England and became just one of the hundreds of Dutch and Flemish artists who came to Britain in the seventeenth century to ply their trade.
Siberechts’ work at Cliveden enhanced his reputation in England as a talented artist and his birds-eye views of stately homes became much sought after. His recognised artistic ability and his connection with Villiers, led him to be awarded numerous painting commissions from the aristocracy and he was often referred to as being the “father of British landscape painting.
These aristocratic commissions from around England were often for paintings of their stately homes. One such example was his 1695 work entitled Wollaton Hall and Park which was in Nottinghamshire and the home of Thomas Willoughby, 1st Baron Middleton. Another commission in 1694 was for a painting of Chatsworth, the Derbyshire country house of William Cavendish, the 1st Duke of Devonshire.
Siberechts received a commission in 1675 from Thomas Thynne. The painting, entitled View of Longleat, depicted his stately home. The work still hangs in the house. Three years later Siberechts completed another painting of the building and this is now part of the Government Art Collection. These depictions of country houses and country estates were very popular with their aristocratic owners and Siberechts was inundated with similar commissions. In the foreground of this painting we see the aristocratic owners along with their horses, portrayed as huntsmen readying themselves for the hunt.
Another example of this type of work by Jan Siberechts is his 1696 topographical landscape painting entitled View of a House and its Estate in Belsize, Middlesex which he completed in 1696. In the painting we see a birds-eye view of the The Grove, the house and estate of Sir Francis Pemberton, a leading figure of the English judiciary. He, along with his wife and seven children, lived there until his death in 1697 just one year after Siberechts had completed the work. Pemberton had bought the neighbouring Dorchester House and its estate around 1688. He then demolished that house to make way for his extensive vegetable gardens and orchards. The all-embracing gardens can be seen surrounding the manor house in Siberechts’ painting.
Jan Siberechts spent a good deal of time travelling around the English countryside fulfilling commissions to paint palatial residences. Such paintings were interspersed with works featuring hunting scenes and views of the rural landscape. My last offerings today are also from the 1690’s when Siberechts completed a series of five landscape paintings featuring the town of Henley and the Thames Valley. There is no record of who commissioned the works but it could well have been one of the many rich merchants who owned land around the town of Henley. The works were different to his earlier ones featuring stately homes for in this series Siberechts concentrated on the landscape of the area with its pastureland and woods and also included views of the River Thames and the boats which plied their trade along this busy waterway. One of the best known of these, entitled Landscape with Rainbow, Henley-on-Thames, can be seen at Tate Britain. It is a beautifully crafted painting. In the foreground we have cattle and horses grazing in pastureland which slopes down towards the tree-lined banks of the River Thames. On the left we can see a laden barge, piled high on deck with its cargo, being manoeuvred along the waterway by four men in the field, who laboriously drag the floating hulk towards the warehouses of Henley. To the right of the painting we see the busy little town of Henley-on-Thames with its high-towered 13th century church, St Mary the Virgin, rising amidst the dwelling places. The church still stands today. The background to the right is filled with rising hills, more pastureland and the occasional woods above which are a double rainbow and a dark and threatening rain cloud which is emptying its contents on the fields below. In the left background of the painting the view has opened up more and we catch a glimpse of the distant hills.
Another painting in the series was Siberechts 1698 work entitled Henley from the Wargrave Road which hangs in its own room in the Henley Gallery of the River & Rowing Museum, Mill Meadows in Oxfordshire. This work is a veritable masterpiece which is in a way a historical record of the time depicting the life of the town, its surrounding countryside, and the importance of the commercial trade using the river. Siberechts has depicted the 17th century buildings of Henley with its old wooden bridge with stone flood arches, the Church and the mill on the river. In the foreground we can see farm workers busy haymaking in the riverside meadows and a cart fully loaded with hay heading down the country lane towards the town of Henley. It is interesting to look back at the paintings of Jan Siberechts which I have featured in my last two blogs. They are so different. There is a certain simplicity and charm to his 1660’s rural life works but his artistic talent cannot be denied when we study some of his later works which he completed during his days in England.
Jan Siberechts died in London in 1703, aged 76.
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