Hans-Ulrich Beck records nineteen views of Arnhem by Van Goyen, with dated versions between 1633 and 1647 (op. cit., nos. 272-89). This painting shows one of the more distant views of the city, looking South across the hills on a summer's day. Van Goyen more frequently depicted the city from across the Rhine, with water occupying the foreground. The path here acts as a compositional device winding its way from the foreground towards the city and leading the eye accordingly into the landscape.
The monumental tower of the Grote Kerk (or Sint Eusebius) which breaks the skyline just left of the centre provides the focal point. To its left are the twin spires of the Sint Waldburgskerk. By comparison with Van Goyen's other treatments of the view, the present work corresponds most closely to another version, dated 164(5), which is taken from approximately the same viewpoint (ibid., no. 276). The general design of both relate to a drawing of Arnhem, from a slightly advanced vantage point, in an English collection (see fig. 1; H.-U. Beck, Jan van Goyen, Amsterdam, 1973, I, p. 226, no. 716).
Van Goyen repeats the circular format that his teacher Esaias van de Velde took from Flemish tradition, and also bases the composition on clear graduations of perspective - the figures conversing in the foreground, and the path that leads to the city of Arnhem in the distance. The tree is used to break up the otherwise strongly horizontal composition.
Painted in 1650, this composition shows Van Goyen's masterful use of palette, deliberately restricted to a range of yellows and golden-browns, with occasional hints of blue. This tonal style, which Van Goyen first adopted in the 1630s, and to which he returned in the late 1640s, was one in which he is regarded as pre-eminent, having brought it to perfection at the time of the present work. In this later period, Van Goyen presents his subject with a breathtaking confidence.