Aelbert Cuyp's paintings are said to be "enveloped in the atmosphere as if imprisoned in pale amber." From a family of painters in the river town of Dordrecht, Cuyp probably learned his craft from his father. After his father's death in 1651 and his mother's three years later, Cuyp inherited considerable property and became a leading citizen in town affairs. In 1658 he married a rich widow and his output, which had previously been prolific, declined.
Generally, Cuyp painted landscapes and animals, but he also created seascapes, still lifes, and portraits. He often traveled the Dutch rivers, sketching from nature. His preferred scenes were idyllically peaceful river views with sun-drenched skies and landscapes with cows silhouetted against the sky, animals he endowed with as much grandeur as human heroes. Cuyp's earliest works share Jan van Goyen's monochromatic style, but by 1648 he may have visited Utrecht, Holland's artistic center, where Italianate influence was strong. Cuyp's 1650s works display greater coloristic differentiation and the soft, golden glow of Italian light. Working in provincial isolation, he had little effect on other Dutch painters. His compositions were popular with eighteenth-century English collectors, and his poetic light exerted a strong influence on English painting.