Cornelis Springer was a Dutch painter best known for his watercolors, etchings, and drawings of architecture and village street scenes he sketched while traveling around the country. Working within the tradition of 17th-century Dutch Golden Age painters such as Jan van der Heyden and Gerrit Berckheyde, Springer emphasized form and receding perspectival space through the play of light as it cuts across buildings. As these painters did, he would occasionally create fantasy cityscapes, a practice started by van der Heyden anticipating the “capricci” of 18th-century Venetian painters.
Depicted in this scene are two iconic buildings located on the central market square (Grote Markt) in the Dutch city of Haarlem. In the background, silhouetted against a bright blue sky, one can distinguish the bell tower and part of the façade of the Grote Kerk, a Reformed Protestant church and former Catholic cathedral. At the forefront of the painting and directly receiving the sunlight is the Vleeshal, a historical building dating back to the early 17th century designed by the famous Flemish architect Lieven de Key. Vleeshal means meat-hall; it was the only place in Haarlem where fresh meat could be sold from 1604 to the 18th century. Since 1950 the building holds collections of the Frans Hals Museum and the Archeologisch Museum Haarlem.
It is also worth noting the careful study of the characters Cornelis Springer would include in his compositions. His detailed preparatory sketches can be admired at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Born in 1817 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Cornelis Springer studied at the Amsterdam Academy of Art, and then as a private pupil of Kasparus Karsen. He became a member of the Amsterdam painters collective Felix Meritis and won a gold medal for a painting of a church interior in 1847. He was awarded the Leopold order of Belgium in 1865, and in 1878 he was invited with Jozef Israëls to advise the Dutch Ministry of Public Affairs on the plans for the Rijksmuseum. The artist died in 1891 in Hilversum, Netherlands. His work can also be found in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, and the Teylers Museum in Haarlem among others.