The CLA president chooses a magical landscape.
Mark Tufnell on his choice of The Avenue at Middelharnis by Meindert Hobbema
‘I have always been keen on landscapes, but this one shows how avenues can be used to draw one’s eye right into the picture. Then you pick up the church on the left, reaching up into the sky and to the heavens with the birds circling in the clouds.
‘On further inspection, you notice the gardener pruning the box trees and a couple chatting; the man with his dog walking towards me; the distraction of the dog closely following his master.
‘I love the detail and I love pictures where you can see multiple layers of life. The lines of the track and the avenue are elements that my late son, Carlie, used in his photography work and make this picture doubly special.’
Mark Tufnell is president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA)
Charlotte Mullins on Meindert Hobbema
An avenue of spindly trees stretches along a road towards a town. In the left foreground, Nature runs free, a thicket of shrubs and undergrowth, but, on the right, she is being cultivated, with neat lines of saplings tended by a vigilant gardener. Perhaps they are being grown for maritime use — a scattering of masts puncture the sky in the far distance, echoing the vertical upthrust of the trees.
The affluent middle-class burghers of 17th-century Holland liked to feel the wind in their hair as they gazed at landscapes on the walls of their city townhouses. They also enjoyed a moralising subtext and, in this work, the trees could be seen to mirror the cycle of life, from the careful nurture of seedlings on the right to the geometric clusters of young trees towards the town on the left and the soaring giants that draw the eye upwards to Heaven.
Born in Amsterdam, Meindert Hobbema trained with the Haarlem landscape artist Jacob van Ruisdael and specialised in tranquil scenes of trees executed in calm muted tones. From the age of 30, his output significantly reduced when he took a job with the customs office in Amsterdam. This work is considered his late masterpiece and is one of the last that can be confidently attributed to him. Despite early success and a late group of successful landscapes he died in poverty and was buried in a pauper’s grave. Only in the 19th century did his work begin to be appreciated once more.
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