Sphinx Fine Art
Benjamin Gerritsz Cuyp was born into a Dutch family of artists. Benjamin entered the Guild of St Luke on 27 January 1631. As no dated works by Benjamin are known, it is difficult to chart the artist’s development accurately, although several different styles of painting can be isolated. In his handling of religious subjects, Benjamin may be considered an important follower of Rembrandt, with whom, however, he seems to have had no direct contact. His fellow townsmen Paulus Lesire (1611–after 1656) and Hendrik Dethier, who also entered the Guild in 1631, were also strongly influenced by Rembrandt’s early work, as indeed were such later Dordrecht artists as Ferdinand Bol, Nicolaes Maes, Samuel van Hoogstraten and Aert de Gelder. Benjamin constructed several variations of Rembrandt’s compositions from the late 1620s and early 1630s, in particular Judas and the Thirty Pieces of Silver (1629; private collection) Benjamin borrowed not only Rembrandt’s deeply shadowed lighting but also his characteristic huddled figures and piled-up compositions. In other paintings tentatively assigned to Benjamin’s early career, the influence of Leonaert Bramer can be felt in dark monochromatic works consisting of a few figures. These various stylistic elements are combined in the large, ambitious Adoration of the Magi (Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum), which displays free, quick brushwork and deeply saturated colours. The influence of Adrian Brouwer and Adrian van Ostade is added to that of Rembrandt and Bramer. Benjamin’s achievement was the marriage of a sketchy brush technique with an intensity of light and colour. He came to favour biblical and historical scenes featuring dramatic bursts of light, such as the Annunciation to the Shepherds, the Raising of Lazarus, the Resurrection, the Liberation of St Peter and the Conversion of Saul. A tumble of figures, one boldly silhouetted, and dramatic flashes of light characterize, for example, the Conversion of Saul (Vienna, Gemäldegallerie Akademie der Bildenden Künste). Another group of Benjamin’s paintings, also conceived in a painterly style but employing delicate pastel shades of blue, pink and orange, seems to have been strongly influenced by Adrian van Ostade.
Benjamin Cuyp also painted religious and history scenes in a monochrome palette with heavy impasto highlights, for example the Annunciation to the Shepherds (Hannover, Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum), which is constructed in various shades of brown. In smaller-scale interior scenes the influence of Adrian Brouwer and Daniel Teniers can be felt. These include biblical subjects (e.g. Tobias; Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum) but more often are genre paintings, usually of peasants, inn scenes or depictions of soldiers. Benjamin also painted a number of battle or encampment scenes in a loose style influenced by painters such as Gerrit Claesz. Bleker and more generally Esaias van de Velde. Closely connected with these are Benjamin’s beach scenes, which usually feature the unloading of fish from boats overseen by gentlemen on horseback. The landscapes that form the settings for these themes show some influence from his half-brother Jacob.
Benjami Gerritsz Cuyp is represented iin the following collections: Dordrechts Museum, Netherlands; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Brukenthal Museum, Sibiu; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, France; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Valenciennes; Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Brussels; Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna; Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; National Museums and Galleries of Wales, amongst others.