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"Back of 'Autumn Landscape with Waterfowl'"

Cornelius Gijsbrechts

It's safe to say that the elusive Gijsbrechts is the most modest painter who has ever lived. Mortally afraid of fame, and embarrassed by a talent he felt was undeserved, he depicted only the backs of paintings. This landscape, number 36 in a series according to the painted-on tag, shows the solid old-fashioned framing style popular in the late 17th century. The wood panel is firmly set into a birch inner frame, then surrounded with a thicker, more durable ash outer frame, all executed in low-key oils with a yellow varnish.


According to his biographer, the painting on the other side of #36 would have shown a Dutch marshscape near sunset, with a distant haze adding yellows and golds to the rich greens and blues of the pool in the foreground. The family group of ducks on the left of the pond is contrasted with the isolation of the heron, which almost blends into the reeds and cattails to the right.


Number 36 is considered to be a sketch or trial work for his masterpiece, the Autumnal Mural at the Ducal Palace in Herstenbogel, which fills one entire wall with the color of fresh plaster.


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