Dr. Martin Schubart, München
His Sale 25 October 1899, no. 48
Private Collection Switzerland, 1899-2005
With Johnny Van Haeften Limited, 2005
Private collection, Guernsey, 2005-2021
In a tranquil Flemish landscape, elegant figures stroll on a footpath beside the still waters of a moat, and a child plays with its dog. Close by stands a large country house, built in red brick, with a turreted gatehouse, drawbridge and high garden walls. In the foreground on a grassy knoll, a shepherd, accompanied by a girl and his dog, sits on the ground beneath a tree. He plays a pipe, while his flock grazes peacefully in the afternoon sun. In the distance, a woman carrying a jar on her head and a herdsman driving cattle complete the rustic idyll.
This picturesque scene is a characteristic example of Isaack van Oosten’s small scale landscapes with figures that strongly recall the work of Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625). Although the latter had been dead for some twenty-five years by the time van Oosten became a master in the Antwerp guild, the type of landscape which Velvet Brueghel had developed in the first decade of the seventeenth century remained extremely popular.
The colourful and elaborately detailed depiction of nature is descended directly from the more famous Antwerp master, as is the diagonal structure of the composition. The central green vista, flanked on one side by the edge of the wood and on the other by a line of wispy trees, creates a recession into space, leading the eye from the foreground into the middle distance and, beyond, to a view of the flat Flemish countryside. The grassy knoll and foreground tree, which rises up almost in the centre of the panel, serve as a repoussoir, lending depth to the landscape. The harmonious colour scheme, rendered in tones of green, blue, brown and terracotta, with accents of strong local colour in the figures’ clothing, is typical of the best work of Isaack van Oosten. Such was the enduring demand for this type of landscape, that the Brueghel landscape tradition was perpetuated well into the eighteenth century by artists such as Joseph van Bredael (1688-1739) and Theobald Michau (1676-1765).
The son of an art dealer of the same name, Isaack van Oosten was born in Antwerp on 10 December 1613: his brother, Frans, was also a painter. Few details of his life are known, nor is the name of his teacher recorded. He became a master in the Antwerp guild of St. Luke in 1652 and, on occasion, collaborated with the figure painter, Pieter van Avont (1600-1652). Isaack van Oosten was primarily a landscapist, but he also painted the panels for cabinets, which were fashionable in Antwerp at that time. His brother Frans van Oosten was also a landscape painter. He died in his native city in December 1661.