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Dutch painter who probably was born in about 1600 at Woerden, near Utrecht. Herman was born to a family of thriving artisans whose ancestors included the famous painter Lucas van Leyden. He painted his first signed and dated works in 1623 in Paris. In 1629 he moved to Rome, where he painted many landscapes, and introduced a new type of idyllic ideal landscape with sunlit 'contrejours' reflecting the times of day. As a matter of fact he seems to be one of the first to paint landscapes without biblical and mythological subjects. Swanevelt became a member of the Bentvueghels; his alias was "heremiet", while he preferred to work alone. There is no evidence to support the tradition that he lived in Rome about 1627/28 in the same house as Claude Lorrain, but it is certain that he had contact with other French artists as well as Netherlandish ones in the city.
During the beginning of the 1630s his development runs parallel to Claude's, and in some ways even anticipates it. During the thirties, as Swanevelt refined his idyllic landscape style, he worked for princely patrons. His paintings became very popular and the Barberini family, Pope Urban VIII and the Vatican offered him commissions, like in the monestary of Monte Cassino. The plum was his commission from an agent of Philip IV who was helping the Spanish king assemble the colossal number of paintings needed to help decorate Buen Retiro, Philip's grandiose new palace in Madrid. Among the works ordered for the king were two series of landscapes, one of large-scale pastoral scenes, the other of anchorites in naturalistic settings. Together the two groups numbered more than fifty paintings. Swanevelt contributed to both series. When we consider that Philip acquired about 800 paintings to ornament his new palace, including VelĂˇzquez's Surrender of Breda and a host of other masterworks, the landscape commission may appear little more than a touch of gilt added to the king's new golden house. But not so. Other artists who worked on the project include Claude, Poussin, Gaspar Dughet, and Jan Both. What remains of the ensemble gives the best idea of the achievement of the major landscapists active in Rome during the 1630s. It also was the largest, most spectacular landscape commission awarded in Europe during the seventeenth century.
After leaving Rome for Paris in 1641 the remainder of Swanevelt's career was mainly spent in the French capital where his paintings and etchings helped to popularise classical landscape in the north. His high-placed Parisian patrons included Cardinal Richelieu; he became 'peintre ordinaire' to Louis XIV, and, in 1651, a member of the AcadĂ©mie Royale. Swanevelt made a few trips to his birthplace Woerden before his death in Paris in 1655, and, when in Holland, this pioneer of the 'ideal landscape' also painted 'Dutch' scenery.
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