Paesaggio fluviale (c.1590)

Carracci, Annibale (1560-1609)

Paesaggio fluviale (River Landscape)
Oil on canvas, 88.3 x 148.1 cm
National Gallery of ArtWashington

It might be said that with paintings like this one, Annibale Carracci invented the landscape as a subject for Italian baroque painting. Nature here is appreciated first and foremost for herself and not as the backdrop for a story. A mellow sunlight dapples the land and picks out the ripples disturbing the surface of the river. The gold in the treetops suggests a day in early autumn. Brightly clad in red and white, a boatman poles his craft through the shallow water. In the company of his brother Agostino and his cousin Lodovico Carracci, Annibale made excursions into the country in order to sketch the landscape. From these quick studies made on the spot he worked up his paintings in the studio. The resulting composition is an artful balancing of forms. As the river wends its way through the countryside towards the foreground, the spits of land that chart its course are made to recede and project in an alternating rhythm of triangles. Trees, like signposts, mark the progress of recession into the distance. At the same time the bold strokes of dark trees in the foreground form a dramatic pattern on the surface to snap the spectator’s attention back from the hazy blue of the distant horizon. (NGA)