Title: Brazilian Landscape
Oil on canvas adhered to fabric and attached to wood stretcher
Dimensions: Image: 18 7/16 × 24 7/16 inches (46.8 × 62.1 cm)
Canvas: 18 5/8 × 25 inches (47.3 × 63.5 cm)
Frame: 24 7/8 × 30 15/16 inches (63.2 × 78.6 cm)
Gift of Louis V. Keeler, Class of 1911, and Mrs. Keeler
In 1636, Frans Post was one of the artists invited to the newly counquered Dutch Brazil by Count Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen, the governor, and spent eight years with him there during a period of relative stability in the young colony. Post’s landscapes of Brazil combine accurately observed details of native flora and fauna—note the anteater nearly hidden at lower left—all while maintaining an agreeable Dutch sensibility in the composition of landscapes and the depiction of town architecture would have been recognizable and comforting to Dutch viewers. From the standpoint of assessing Dutch success in colonial aspirations, these paintings show a wild, exotic land that has, nonetheless, been conquered, tamed, and made productive.
Only six paintings survive from Post’s years in Brazil. Many more, like this one, were painted back in Post’s native Haarlem, where he had the opportunity to refine and further idealize his view of a colony that by the time this painting was made had been defunct for over a decade. (Andrew C. Weislogel, “The New and Unknown World: Art, Exploration, and Trade in the Dutch Golden Age,” catalogue accompanying an exhibition organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, curated by Andrew C. Weislogel and presented at the Johnson Museum August 13 –October 2, 2011)
In the seventeenth century, the newly independent nation of the Netherlands created a far-flung network of trading posts and settlements, from Niew Amsterdam (now New York) to Brazil, western Africa, India, and Indonesia. One of the most carefully documented of these colonies was the short-lived expedition to Brazil from 1637 to 1644, when the Dutch, under the leadership of Prince Maurits of Nassau, attempted to establish a thriving sugar industry, as well as a capital city. Prince Johan Maurits brought with him a group of artists, map makers, and scientists to record this new world.
Frans Post, the artist who executed this painting, went to Brazil and saw these exotic landscapes firsthand; this work, like most of his paintings, was executed after he returned to his native Haarlem. His simple, almost naive organization of the recession into the background, ending in distant blue, and the generalized stick figures are typical of him. He often added armadillos, tapirs, anteaters, and other such exotic animals (see the lower left corner of this painting), as a kind of "signature;" he even would include an armadillo, for example, in a traditional subject from the Old Testament. This particular view of the various buildings and slaves of a sugar plantation was probably not meant to document a specific place but rather to suggest a typical establishment of this kind. (From “A Handbook of the Collection: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art," 1998)
NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.