Fourth approach to Rubens ‘Het Steen’, 1636 and Pissarro’s ‘The Côtes Saint-Denis’ or ‘The Côtes des Boeufs’ 1877

Odd the order of painting as shown by the overlapping of oil paint. The trees in the mid ground appear to have been put in first as thick white, then thinned washes to give them colour, a traditional process but why start there, not elsewhere?
Still interested in the circular grove of trees, looking at the land around them, if we are in mid air, then the grove is, just about, the highest point and a series of concentric circular ditches fan out into the countryside, if we assume those ditches carry on around us. Is this an iron age fort? Probably not, apparently the land around Steen is very flat. Would Rubens have knowingly made or described such a construction. Here since time immemorial? The inheritor of tradition through his own efforts etc. Did such a theme exist in the 17th century Netherlands. Had we been looking at a painting of Maiden Castle, the associations would be relatively straightforward, are they here?
I have been looking at a catalogue of Rubens drawings, the uprooted tree comes from there, but I still find it jars with the celebration of the estate as shown by the cows. Thinking of the ‘Good and Bad Government’ frescoes in Sienna, we have an interesting mix of both here. Is the uprooted tree a particular Dutch Iconograph?

Cotes des Boeufs

One would assume from looking at it that the vertical poplars were laid in first, then the rest built up around it and the trunks worked over again, ie starting off with a horizontal vertical grid. There is a sort of system to the brush strokes, the foreground with the currant bushes and the largely viridian ground is laid in with horizontal strokes that move to the diagonal by the figures on the left and tend to the vertical for the rest of the painting. Light also comes in from the right, shadows on the poplar are on the left and the chimney on the slate roof casts a darker shadow on the left. To cast such a shadow the sun must be reasonably bright. None of the other chimneys cast shadows, which is not what you would expect, they are all in roughly the same plane. Is this evidence of different sections being painted, firmly en plein air at different times of the day? To have consistent shadows when painting at such a scale and with such detail clearly demands carrying out the idea of landscape, rather than documenting the changing pattern of light as it circles planet artist. Pissarro by the way later described his work  from the period as ‘rough and rasping’s and only visible when lit from the front’ I’m not sure about the rough and rasping but the second part is still true.


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