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The Cover
July 19, 2000

Two Cows and a Young Bull Beside a Fence in a Meadow

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(3):279. doi:10.1001/jama.284.3.279

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.

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