Cows came to symbolise Dutch wealth and optimism in the the 17th Century; the ‘Dutch Golden Age’. And no-one painted them better than Aelbert Cuyp.


As Art History News has it:

‘River Landscape with Cows’ (1648-1650) is one of Cuyp’s most characteristic pictures. Although he was not the first Dutch artist to portray a herd of cows, Cuyp imbued his cattle with a sense of idealized grace and nobility. During the 17th century, dairy farming assumed an important role in the Dutch economy and the cow came to symbolize the prosperity and well-being of the Netherlands.

But a later Dutchman Theo van Doesburg, exploded the classic Dutch cow to illustrate ‘Abstraction’.


Having seen his dissection of the cow, I appreciate all the more van Doesburg’s Compositie VII from 1917.


The first time I saw it I liked the sense of depth and three dimensions. The more you look at it, the more it feels that the colour blocks are hanging with their own gravity; suspended as if held together by a magnetic field.

‘Abstraction’ comes to life with a worked example. And, given its distinguished Art history, what better subject than a fine Dutch cow.

For more on Cuyp, Abstraction and Art for every occasion, I loved Andrew Graham-Dixon’s:

In the Picture: The Year Through Art

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