Cuyp first trained with his father who was a portraitist. Throughout his career he devoted himself to marine and river views, winter landscapes and a number of religious compositions and figure studies although it was his landscapes with evening light that brought him most fame and esteem, particularly among 18th-century British collectors. His earliest works, which date to the 1640s, reveal the influence of tonal painters such as Salomon van Ruysdael and Jan van Goyen, whose subjects and approach to composition he borrowed. In the second half of the 1640s Cuyp embarked on a new direction and started to depict views of mountains, flocks with shepherds and travellers on roads illuminated with the soft, golden light of the Mediterranean evening. It would seem, however, that Cuyp never went to Italy and that he derived these elements from innovations in the work of his fellow painters who had visited that country. The work of Jan Both was an important influence with regard to Cuyp’s new approach to landscape.
Landscape with a Sunset is a typical composition by the artist and one that includes the various elements that brought him fame and popularity. The subject chosen as a pretext to depict the sunset is that of a cowherd who is seen in the centre of the composition, guiding his herd home at the end of the day.The path, which runs almost parallel to the edge of the painting in the immediate foreground, turns to the left and leads on to a rustic wooden bridge that creates a marked diagonal, dividing the composition into two areas emphasised by the lighting. Cuyp fills the dark foreground zones from which the sun has already departed with undergrowth and branches whose leaves are carefully painted and which contrast with the soft, pale tones used in the background. The sky is tinged with the pink of sunset that touches the peaks of the distant mountains and highlights the clouds and branches of the trees on the right.
With regard to its composition, the panel has been compared to various paintings by Both including Landscape with a Bridge that was formerly in the Cook collection in Richmond, and three others in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, the Wallace Collection in London and in a private collection. There are also two further paintings by Cuyp that use similar elements to the present panel such as the bridge and river on the right, the bank of the lake on the left and the path in the centre with a group of trees whose upper branches are outlined against the sky. They are The Flight into Egypt in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and a painting in the collection of Mr and Mrs Edward W. Carter in Los Angeles.
In the 18th century the present panel belonged to Johan van der Linden van Slingeland, a well-known collector in Dordrecht who owned more than 30 works by Cuyp.