Dulwich Picture Gallery I


Cornelis Gerritsz. DECKER

Haarlem, 1610/20–Haarlem, buried 23 March 1678
Dutch landscape painter

Cornelis Gerritez. Decker worked in the style of Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/9–82). In a late 18th-century list, however, he is mentioned as a pupil of Salomon van Ruysdael (c. 1600/1603–70). The first thing known about him is that he married in 1637, which means that he was probably born some time between 1610 and 1620.

It is not known when he became member of the Guild of St Luke, but he was summoned by the board in 1643 and 1644, and he appears on a contribution list in 1661. Several sources state that the staffage figures in his paintings were by other artists, including Adriaen van Ostade (1610–85), Johannes Lingelbach (1622–74) and Philips Wouwerman (1619–68).1

Decker is not mentioned in 17th- and 18th-century biographical handbooks, but the estate inventory of Jan Miense Molenaer (1609/10–68), a Haarlem painter and art dealer, lists nineteen landscapes by him. He also painted several interiors of weavers’ workshops.

Bredius 1915–22, i, pp. 2–9; Van Thiel-Stroman 2006d; Saur, xxv, 2000, pp. 125–6 (D. Beaujean); Ecartico, no. 2379: http://www.vondel.humanities.uva.nl/ecartico/persons/2379 (June 5, 2017); RKDartists&, no. 21287: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/21287 (June 5, 2017).

Attributed to Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker
DPG349 – Canal with Bridge

c. 1640–78; oak panel, 40.5 x 53 cm
Signed or inscribed, bottom right: R (?)

Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 30, no. 308 (‘Unhung / no. 39, Windmill, canal, figures &c. Bridge – P[anel] Ruysdael’; 1'10" x 2'3").

Cat. 1817, p. 5, no. 44 (‘FIRST ROOM – West Side; A Landscape, with a Bridge and Figures; Jacob Ruysdael’); Haydon 1817, pp. 373–4, no. 44;2 Cat. 1820, p. 5, no. 44 (Ruisdael); Cat. 1830, p. 12, no. 245 (Ruisdael); Jameson 1842, ii, p. 483, no. 245 (Ruisdael); Denning 1858, no. 245 (Dekker; Christian name unknown);3 not in Denning 1859; Sparkes 1876, p. 156, no. 245 (School of Ruysdael); Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 147, no. 245 (School of J. van Ruisdael); Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 96, no. 349; Cook 1914, p. 209, no. 349; Cook 1926, p. 195, no. 349; Cat. 1953, p. 35 (School of J. Isz. van Ruisdael); Murray 1980a, p. 301 (after J. van Ruisdael); Beresford 1998, p. 218 (follower of Ruisdael); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 67 (attributed to Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker); RKD, no. 284651: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/284651 (June 12, 2017).

Single-member oak panel, bevelled on the verso edges. A thin sliver of wood (approximately 12 cm) has broken off at the back bottom edge; otherwise the panel is in good condition. The monogram, ‘R’, is contemporary with the painting, but is not of Ruisdael. The thinly painted brown areas, particularly the bridge and the shadow side of the building, have suffered considerable abrasion from past over-cleaning. There were a few later additions (confirmed as 18th century or later by the identification of Prussian blue during paint sample analysis) including a reflection of the boat and some foliage under the bridge. These were removed in 2005. The figure on the right and the figures on the bridge also bore some over-painted alterations. Removal of this over-paint revealed that the original figures are considerably abraded – this damage was probably sustained when the sky was cleaned in the past. Some over-paint was left on these figures as so little original paint remains in parts. Previous recorded treatment: no conservation records exist for this painting prior to 2005; 2005, technical analysis, L. Sheldon; conserved, S. Plender.

1a) Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker, House at a Pond, signed indistinctly, panel, 48.9 x 64.8 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Rafael Valls Ltd, London, 2006).
1b) Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker, Houses at a Pond, panel, 40.6 x 55.9 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Rafael Valls Ltd, London, 2006).
1c) Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker, View in a Wood, canvas, 67.4 x 83.2 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Rafael Valls Ltd, London, 2006) [1].4
1d) Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker, River Scene with a Cottage and Boat, monogrammed CD, panel, 28 x 40 cm. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, WA1897.7/A 284 [2].5
1e) Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker, Landscape with a Bridge, false Hobbema signature, panel, 100.5 x 83.9 cm. Lanckoronski Collection, Royal Castle, Warsaw, no. 3926.6
1f) Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker, A Sluice – Wooded Landscape with Figures on a Path, panel, 40.1 x 52 cm. Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, NWHCM:1991.1.6:F.7
2a) Jacob van Ruisdael, Landscape with a Ruined Tower, panel, 47 x 63.2 cm. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, 611.8
2b) Jacob van Ruisdael, Cottages and a Clump of Trees near a Small River, signed and dated Jv Ruisdael f 1646, etching, 205 x 277 mm. RPK, RM, Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-4637 [3].9

DPG349 entered the collection as a Ruisdael, and is monogrammed with an ‘R’, but as early as 1858 Denning attributed it to Cornelis Decker, a follower of Ruisdael. In their 1880 catalogue Richter and Sparkes gave it to the school of Ruisdael. In 1996 Jeroen Giltaij of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen observed that compositional elements like the tall house at the left come from Ruisdael’s early etching of 1646 (Related works, no. 2b) [3],10 and the windmill, bridge and (dead?) willow at the waterside in the middle are very reminiscent of early Ruisdael;11 he rejected the attribution to Decker, preferring instead ‘school of the early Jacob van Ruisdael’.12 There are, however, works that make a claim for the authorship of Decker acceptable: Related works 1a–1f are very similar in composition and technique. An early Ruisdael (Related works, no. 2a) seems to be the source of Decker’s work, in the combination of picturesque derelict buildings with some trees or in a landscape. Toby Campbell of Rafael Valls Ltd, whose gallery had at least one signed painting by Decker still in 2006, was sure that he painted DPG349.13

attributed to Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker
Canal with bridge, c. 1640-1678
panel (oak), oil paint 40,5 x 53 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG349

attributed to Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker
View in a Wood
canvas, oil paint 67,4 x 83,2 cm
lower left : Ruis...?
London, art dealer Rafael Valls Limited

Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker
River Scene with a Cottage and Boat
panel, oil paint 28 x 40 cm
Oxford (England), Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, inv./cat.nr. WA1897.7/A 284

Jacob van Ruisdael
Cottages and a Clump of Trees near a Small River, 1646
paper, etching 205 x 277 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./cat.nr. RP-P-OB-4637


1 Schnackenburg 1996c, p. 611 (Ostade); for Lingelbach and Wouwerman see RKDartists& (s.v. Decker; July 2, 2020).

2 ‘Ditto [=Jacob Ruisdael]. Ditto [= Landscape], with a Bridge, Figures, &c. This representation of old houses, a bridge, river, &c. is a fine specimen of that truth of delineation, so much sought after by the greatest masters of this school, in the various substances of brick, plaister, &c. which are faithfully and masterly painted, and the water delightfully transparent.’

3 ‘This picture was long attributed to Jacob Ruysdael, of whom Dekker was a successful imitator. The figures in Dekker’s pictures were frequently painted by Adrien Ostade and Adrien Van de Velde. […] In the National Gallery Catalogue he is called Frans Decker, and is said to have been born at Haarlem in 1684 and to have been a pupil of Romein de Hooge. He died at Haarlem in 1751. Even the Christian name of Dekker is a matter of mystery. Much more his birth and career. Indeed there seem to have been very many artists of the same name in Holland, and much about the same time. According to Pilkington this landscape painter was Francis (or Frans as it is put in the National Gallery Catalogue). But there seems just as much authority for Charles or Conraet or Henry. He painted like Ruysdael.’

4 RKD, no. 46196: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/46196 (June 5, 2017).

5 RKD, no. 297427: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/297427 (April 8, 2020); see also https://collections.ashmolean.org/object/372635 (July 14, 2020); White 1999a, pp. 31–2, no. A 284.

6 Juszczak & Małachowicz 1998, pp. 29–31, no. 6.

7 Formerly attributed to Jacob van Ruisdael, see NICE (Jan. 22, 2021): https://www.vads.ac.uk/digital/collection/NIRP/id/31388/rec/8 (R. Johns); Moore 1988, p. 122, no. 73, fig. xxiii.

8 Slive 2001, pp. 389–90, no. 537.

9 RKD, no. 297428: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/297428 (April 8, 2020); see also http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.39319 (April 6, 2020); Slive 2005, pp. 238–9, no. 100.

10 The building in the etching is in fact quite different architecturally; only its position at the left is similar.

11 Letter from Jeroen Giltaij to Richard Beresford, 5 Sept. 1996 (DPG349 file).

12 Christopher Brown, note in DPG349 file.

13 Letter from Toby Campbell to Desmond Shawe-Taylor, 24 June 2002 (DPG349 file), with photographs.

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