This etching represents a landscape outside of Amsterdam that Rembrandt returned to often in his work. The peninsula is known as “De Omval,” after a ruin that had once stood there (the Dutch word, omvallen, translates as “toppled” or “fallen”). It is believed that Rembrandt carried copper plates with him on his walks around De Omval, working in the open air as trees and vistas inspired him. Houses, churches, and a mill dot the background. The large, untamed willow tree dominating the fore-and-midground of the composition conceals a pair of lovers in its blurred shadows. In this example of a Netherlandish baroque-era pastoral scene, Rembrandt conveys the effects of a burgeoning industrial and mercantile power on the sublimity of nature. This depiction of the encroachment of modern life on the environment still resonates today.
About the artist
The painter and printmaker Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) was the most important artistic figure of the Dutch Golden Age. He grew up in Leiden, and as a young man studied art both there and in Amsterdam, where he permanently moved in 1631 as patrons and collectors sought after his work. Approximately 300 etched compositions display Rembrandt’s ongoing fascination with interactions between light and shadow in Amsterdam’s countryside. Rembrandt trained his students to use similar direct methods of observation, ensuring his technical precision endured through the subsequent generation.