Lot 7
Indonesian Art Sale 2018
Wilhelm Christiaan Constant Bleckmann (1853-1942)

Chinese houses at the Kali Pintu Kecil, old Batavia (Jakarta)

signed 'Bleckmann' (lower right) and indistinctly titled and numbered '18' on a label on the reverse Excuted ca. 1896-1898

oil on paper, mounted on board, unframed, 39x59 cm

During the 17th and 18th century, Batavia (modern-day Jakarta) was under rule of the Dutch East India Company (the V.O.C.). Because of the large-scale spice trading business, the town of Batavia was centered in the north, around the harbor at Sunda Kelapa, and the old Chinese quarter at Glodok. In the early 20th century, this charming Chinese quarter of Batavia continuously attracted Western artists, be it painters with a traditional background like Jan van Aken, Willem Witsen and W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, Impressionists like Ger Adolfs and Willem van der Does, or Modernists like Michel Vervoort, Is. Van Mens, and Jan Frank Niemantsverdriet. Whereas Witsen was inspired by his earlier watercolours of Dordrecht, the Modernists must have been triggered to paint the Chinese quarter along shallow canals because of the cubist way in which the stacked houses were built. The Kali Besar and Kali Pintu Kecil were arguably among the favourite places to depict. Without realizing it, Willem Bleckmann must have been one of the first to choose the latter picturesque cityscape as an artistic theme, just before the turn of the century.

Wilhelm ‘Willem’ Christiaan Constant Bleckmann was born on February 14, 1853 in Batavia. After a formal education in Holland, Bleckmann returned to his native island of Java in 1872, where he worked as a civil servant. An essential turning point in Bleckmann’s life took place in 1877, when he left for the Netherlands on sick leave. There, he was hugely impressed by the paintings of the The Hague School artists, which, following in the footsteps of the Barbizon School, had now risen to great heights, like the Maris brothers and J.H. Weissenbruch (1824-1903). He decided to attend art classes at the Amsterdam Academy of Fine Arts. After returning to Batavia, he made a dramatic career change, being appointed drawing teacher at the Batavia Willem III gymnasium in 1882. In his spare time, he would depict the Javanese landscape, in and around Batavia, in watercolours and oil paintings. From 1882 until 1898, Bleckmann experienced a huge artistic development, evolving from a Romantic into an Impressionist painter. He did so, after famous painters like Raden Saleh, Salm and Beynon had passed away, and long before the next generation of painters would even think of travelling to the Indies. Bleckmann may have met Mari ten Kate (1831-1910), Maurits van den Kerkhoff (1830-1908), and W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp (1874-1950), but looking at the oeuvres of these artists, there don’t appear to be any (mutual) influences. In 1898, Bleckmann retired at 45, repatriated, and settled in The Hague with his wife and daughter, to become a much appreciated painter in the Dutch art scene. Although he occasionally painted Indonesian themes from memory after his repatriation, I consider the current lot to have been executed during his last stay in Batavia, between 1896-1898.

Gianni Orsini, July 2018

€ 2.000,00
€ 3.000,00
€ 1.600,00

Hamerprijs: € 1.600