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cornelis pronk
(1691–1759, Amsterdam)

A Flat Landscape in Groningen with a View of the Sacrament Chapel of Solwerd. Pen and black ink over a preliminary drawing in graphite, grey wash. 14.7 x 24.3 cm.

Cornelis Pronk is known mostly as the author of an extensive oeuvre of topographical drawings. He studied under Jan van Houten and Arnold Boonen in Amsterdam and specialised in this genre in the late 1720s. To this end he undertook numerous journeys through the Netherlands on his own or in the company of fellow artists, recording his impressions in sketchbooks. The high documentary value of his drawings derives from their photographic precision. Pronk is deemed to be the founder of a school of topographical drawing in the Netherlands. Abraham de Haen, Paulus van Liender and Jan de Beijer rank among his most important students.

The Rijksprentenkabinet in Amsterdam has a series of styli­stically comparable drawings, all of which were executed using a similar precise and crisp drawing technique. A distinguishing feature of these works is a meticulous, accurate wash that produces telling light effects. Skilful use of the white paper tone enables the artist to create the impression of vibrant sunlight.

The present drawing is a good illustration of the merits of Pronk’s draughtsmanship. It portrays a wide meadow landscape not far from the town of Appingedam in the Dutch province of Groningen. Arched above a low horizon is an endless overcast summer sky. Sat prominently in the foreground is
an artist seen from the rear in the process of drawing. To his right is a brickworks, the walls of which reflect the glaring sunlight. Using a pointed brush, the artist creates in the smallest of formats an incomparably lively and suggestive depiction of a peaceful herd of cows and trotting horses. In the background to the right is the silhouette of the Sacrament Chapel of Solwerd, which was a popular place of pilgrimage in the 16th century. This simple brick building was demolished in 1783. Despite the limitations imposed by the black-and-white medium, Pronk succeeds in conveying the atmospheric lightness of the austere northern landscape and creating a timeless reproduction of a carefree summer day.