The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
Paulus Potter (1625-1654) lived a short life but cast a long shadow.
In a country and a century marked by masters, no one painted animals better
than he. Moreover, he gave his subject—the ordinary, commonplace domestic
farm animals such as cows, goats, sheep, and pigs—a fresh perspective.
Other Dutch and Flemish painters often included grazing animals in their landscapes
(cows were, after all, common in Holland), but they were only a means to an
end; their purpose was to reinforce the rusticity of the scene. Potter, on
the other hand, painted cattle for their own sake; they were the stars, the
landscape a backdrop, added only, one suspects, as a bow to convention. In
their creation he used every trick of natural and reflected light. He set
the horizon low and placed the cows against huge white clouds blown in from
the sea. For balance he placed dead oak trees or unpainted fences in the foreground
and tiny villages, soaring birds, and other grazing cattle in the background.
Southgate MT. Two Cows and a Young Bull Beside a Fence in a Meadow. JAMA. 2000;284(3):279. doi:10.1001/jama.284.3.279