Following a lengthy apprenticeship with a local Haarlem painter, Pieter Saenredam made a career specializing in what might be termed architectural portraiture. The clarity and harmony of his powerfully descriptive views of churches, stripped of earlier Catholic furnishings by the Calvinists, is underscored by his subtle manipulation of line and color. In the Kimbell painting, a crisp, cool light floods the interior, enlivening it with blue and pink tones as it strikes the varied surfaces of the vaults and floor tiles, the thinly painted figures providing a sense of scale. On the niche of the pillar at the left, the artist neatly inscribed his name and the date that he painted this view of the Buurkerk.
Saenredam’s known oeuvre—some sixty paintings—is small, owing to his meticulous working methods. His paintings of churches throughout the northern Netherlands are based on meticulous perspectival drawings, or cartoons, derived from sketches and measurements taken in situ. The paintings themselves were executed in the studio, sometimes years later, as in the case of the Kimbell painting and the companion view of the same church interior, painted in 1644, that is preserved in the National Gallery, London. The chalk drawing that Saenredam made as the basis for the two compositions, now in the Municipal Archives of Utrecht, bears the date August 16, 1636. He made subtle adjustments to his initial site drawing, heightening the elevation and maximizing the vertical thrust of the architecture to convey the church’s lofty interior.