Van Gogh •
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Meindert Hobbema was born in Amsterdam and never left the city except for brief sketching trips in the surrounding countryside.
Hobbema was both pupil and friend of Jacob van Ryusdael as long as the master lived in Amsterdam. Hobbema specialized in landscape painting during a short career that ended abruptly in 1689 when, the year after his marriage to the Burgomaster's cook, he painted his last picture. The good offices of the Burgomaster secured him a civil service position as wijnroeir, a minor customs official whose endless duty it was to gauge the amount of wine in foreign casks according to Dutch measure. Although this position assured him a steady salary and was more lucrative than the sale of paintings, Hobbema died a pauper in 1709, leaving behind work that ranks him with Ruysdael as one of the greatest of the seventeenth-century Dutch landscape artists.
Hobbema's paintings may be distinguished from those of Ruysdael by their placidity, truthfulness, and attention to small details. His skies -- always so significant in Holland for their substance, color, and movement -- are by no means cloudless, and are never turbulent. His waters are harnessed and still, and his trees seem not to move even as they stretch upward to join earth and sky and to break the monotonous and enclosure of small spaces. Hobbema's color is quietly soft, with deep greens, an occasional red-tiled roof, warm yellows, and sometimes the flash of a white coif or collar under the blue and white of the endless sky. The subtle balance of his compositions adds to the serenity of his effects; and the detail of tree branches, country roads, and small figures going about their daily tasks, increases this feeling of serenity that in Hobbema's painting seems to indicate man's contentment merely to be alive.