Painter, landscape painter, animal painter, portrait painter, etcher, commercial artist, draughtsman and deacon
Baptised in October 1620 in Dordrecht, Aelbert Cuyp was the son and pupil of Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp (1594-1652) and nephew of Benjamin Gerritsz. Cuyp (1612-1652). He trained in his father's workshop and presumably took it over after his father died in 1652. His first dated paintings are from 1639. In the early 1640s he travelled to Rhenen, Arnheim, Amersfoort, Utrecht, Leiden and The Hague, and in late 1651 or 1652 he journeyed along the Rhine and the Waal past Rhenen to Nijmegen, Kleve, Kaikar, Ehen and Emmerich. Numerous topographical drawings that later served as reference material for his paintings document this itinerary. In 1658 he married Cornelia Boschman, the widow of the well-to-do Dordrecht regent Johan van den Corput and granddaughter of the Leiden theologian Franciscus Gomarus, who had led the party of Counter-Remonstrants at the Dordrecht synod. The couple raised three children from Cornelia's first marriage and a daughter of their own. After his marriage Cuyp appears to have curtailed his painting in favour of other activities. In 1660/61 he served as a dean and from 1672 to 1674 as an elder of Dordrecht's Reformed church, and beginning in 1673 he is documented as regent of the Grote Kerk's Hl. Geist- und Pesthaus, or hospital. From 1679 to 1682 he was a member of the 'Hoge Vierschaar', the highest court in South Holland. Upon the death of his wife in 1689, his estate totalled the handsome sum of 42,000 gulden. He was buried in Dordrecht on 15 November 1691. Cuyp is best known for his Dutch meadow landscapes with their rich staffage, but he also painted biblical histories, genre scenes, church interiors, still lifes, game birds and portraits. He specialised in portraits of subjects on horseback in front of a landscape. Numerous sketches and drawings and a few etchings are known, of which no catalogue has yet been published. As a landscape painter he appears to have been mainly influenced by Jan van Goyen, and later by Jan Both (who had returned to Holland from Italy in 1643). His buyers and patrons belonged to Dordrecht's upper class; Cuyp's name does not appear to have become well known outside his hometown during his lifetime. Only in the second half of the eighteenth century did English collectors take an interest in his works, which impressed such painters as Turner and Constable and would be imitated in Dordrecht by the Van Strij brothers and others. Around 1657 he took on as a pupil not Barem van Calraet (1650-1737), as Houbraken relates, but probably Barem's older brother Abraham van Calraet (1642-1722).