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A Summer Scene
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Hendrik Meyer
Dutch, 1787
Black chalk, pen and brown ink, gouache, pen and black ink framing lines
14 5/8 x 19 in.
2004.46.1

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The fine rendering in this watercolor by Hendrik Meyer underscores his subject: an idealized version of summer in the Dutch countryside. In the foreground, a tree and a shepherd tending sheep are cast in deep shadow. Their silhouettes draw attention to a brightly lit mill house in which every brick, piece of wood, and blade of straw is visible. Beyond the mill an ivy-covered steeple, a field, and a village are, by contrast, much more pale to establish atmospheric distance. Other details suggest the summer heat: Women are barefoot, a dog drinks water from the mill's stream, and cattle gravitate toward the shade. Much of the scene is animated: Men tend to animals or reap hay; women wash, spin wool, and chatter; animals wander about; birds soar above, and a frothy waterfall spills from the mill.

Meyer's figured landscapes were produced as finished works for sale. They revived a seventeenth-century tradition of such scenes, hearkening back to Dutch painters such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder, as well as calendar illustrations in medieval books of hours. Artists represented times of the year by showing people engaged in seasonal activities. Summer months were often represented by peasants harvesting fields, carrying hay, and guiding oxen.