Jan van Kessel of Amsterdam - The Amsterdam City Hall with the old Weigh House on the Dam (the weigh house was dismantled during the French occupation) - before 1680
Jan van Kessel (1641, Amsterdam – 1680, Amsterdam) was a Dutch Golden Age draftsman and landscape painter who made many cityscapes of Amsterdam. His work is often confused with the works of contemporary painters with the same name.
According to Houbraken he was born in Amsterdam in 1648 and made clever farm scenes that he first drew from life before making his oil paintings. Houbraken went on to mention that he was best known for his winter scenes and died in 1698. Houbraken couldn’t discover whether he was related to the Jan van Kessel of Antwerp, who was mentioned in Cornelis de Bie’s book Het Gulden Cabinet.
According to the RKD he was the son of the framemaker Thomas Jacobsz van Kessel, and the pupil of the landscape painter Jacob van Ruisdael in Amsterdam. He is known for cityscapes, beach scenes, winter landscapes and architectural works.
In Coming from Evening Church Palmer adopts a fresco technique (really a form of tempera) which is comparable to Blake’s ‘fresco’ panels such as The Ghost of a Flea. The moonlit scene shows a winding procession of figures returning from Evensong with flowers in their hands. At their head are a young man and his wife, who holds their little boy by the hand. They are followed by the parson in his cassock and a group of villagers, including children and the elderly. Some of the figures, especially those at the head of the procession, probably derive from figures in Blake’s Songs of Innocence (1789). The prominent church spire signifies a divine presence within the landscape. This is emphasised by the gothic arches created by the gable ends of the houses and the branches at the top of the composition, a device that Palmer also employs in A Hilly Scene. The leaves of the left-hand tree partly obscure a full moon which casts an atmospheric glow over the scene. Below the moon is a row of steep hills, their perspective distorted and their shape echoed by the cone-shaped gables, giving the picture a sense of organic unity. The vision is deliberately archaic and appears to have been inspired by early panel paintings as well as miniatures in medieval manuscripts.