Lot 63
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Old Masters, Nineteenth Century & Early Modern Art | 16 November 2022
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Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (1803-1862)

A herdsman with his cows near an old oak tree

signed and dated 'B.C. Koekkoek 1851' (lower right); signed, dated and authenticated 'Dit schilderijtje, voorstellende/een boschrijk landschap met een/doode eik op den voorgrond, is/geschilderd in het jaar 1851/door den ondergeteekende/B.C. Koekkoek' (on a handwritten label attached to the reverse); the artist's wax seal with initials 'BCK' (on the handwritten label)

oil on panel, 32,5x29 cm

Literature:
-Pieter A. Scheen, ‘Lexicon Nederlandse Beeldende Kunstenaars 1750-1950', The Hague 1969, ill. no. 111.
-B.C. Koekkoek, 'Herinneringen en mededelingen van eenen landschapschilder', Schiedam 1982, ill.

Provenance:
-With Kunsthandel Pieter A. Scheen, The Hague, 1966, cat. no. 14, where acquired by the family of the present owners.

Please compare to a painting by the artist with a similar composition, sold at: Auction, Bukowskis, Stockholm, 30 November 1994, lot 277.

Lots 56-83: A Distinguished Collection

On a beautiful day in August 1840 Barend Cornelis Koekkoek, then 36 years old, left his home in Cleve, Germany, together with three other young painters: two fellow Dutchmen, and one German artist. They set off on a journey through Germany and because Koekkoek kept a travel logbook we can now read about their adventures in: “Herinneringen en Mededeelingen van eenen Landschapschilder” (“Recollections and communications of a Landscape Painter”), published the next year. Apart from being a nice collection of events, the book is most valuable for learning about Koekkoek’s artistic views, for he also describes his sketching and painting process in great detail, shares his opinions about the work of his artist friends and gives advice to would-be art students. By this time, Koekkoek’s fame takes a flight and he quickly becomes an internationally renowned landscape painter with a substantial and important clientele. During his lifetime he would receive numerous awards and decorations and would see the likes of King Willem II of the Netherlands, King Friedrich-Wilhelm IV of Prussia and Czar Alexander II amongst his patrons.

Koekkoek was born in Middelburg, and started his artistic training, just like his brothers, under the wings of his father, the marine painter Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek (1778-1851). Soon though, Barend Cornelis would change his home country for Germany. He thought the Dutch countryside simply too dull: “Surely”, he wrote, “Our fatherland boasts no rocks, waterfalls, high mountains or romantic valleys. Proud, sublime nature is not to be found in our land”. In 1834 he settled with his wife in the town of Cleve, a nice place to work from, and one that worked well as base to undertake his long journeys along the Rhine and the Ruhr rivers. During his travels Koekkoek would study nature meticulously and make numerous basic paintings or sketches which would on his return be worked out in his studio.

The above-mentioned book from 1841 gives a clear idea about how Koekkoek considered nature to be the one and only source of inspiration for his art. His almost lyrical written descriptions of the landscape were subsequently translated into paintings by his sublime depiction of winding paths, panoramic views and broad trees in impressive wooded environments. Some tiny figures can be seen, but only to underscore the contrast of humble humanity as opposed to the greatness of nature. Koekkoek’s artistic views and theories, along with his highly developed technical skills, appealed to many young artists who wanted to receive his tuition. And so, in the same year that he published his book, he also founded his own drawing academy (Zeichen Collegium). This would be the beginning of “The School of Cleves” with students such as Frederik Martinus Kruseman, Willem Bodeman and Johann Bernard Klombeck, all drawing in the same romantic vein, resulting in works in which realistic details are combined with an almost dreamy atmosphere. This impressive lot is dated 1851, and by that time Koekkoek is at the very height of his genius. On a forest lane, a solitary herdsman walks towards us with his cows. The path is dappled with warm sunlight that reminds us of the first golden hours of a beautiful summer day. The haziness in the background, where morning mist still lingers, tells us that the air is probably still cool and fresh. The eye is drawn to a majestic oak tree with partly broken off branches. The tree not only divides the shadowy part from the sunny segment, but is also half living, half dead.

It is a frequently recurring theme in Koekkoek’s work and often seen in seventeenth century landscapes. But where the use of this Vanitas symbolism by Koekkoek’s predecessors is often dark and threatening, in his own sunny landscape it seems to be just a friendly reminder that life and death are always close companions. Koekkoek uses his trees also to give the composition an intimate, closed-in atmosphere. With the trees cut off by the edge of the canvas, the scene is narrowed in, giving it extra depth. In a perfect blend of the peaceful pastoral with the sublime reverence for nature, Koekkoek lives up to his title ‘Prins der Landschapschilders’.

Barend Cornelis Koekkoek indeed shows royal grace in carefully combining his close study of Dutch seventeenth century painters with his own acute study of nature. The influence of painters like Hobbema, Cuyp, Ruisdael and Wynant, but also Pieter van Laer and Jan Both can be seen both in his technique and in his choice of subject. Yet, Koekkoek’s own pictures, are superb in their own right: his magnificent landscapes in which the greatness of nature is celebrated in every detail, have never stopped to impress. Up to this day Koekkoek is widely regarded as the most talented and skilled landscape painter of the nineteenth century.

Source:
-Angelika Nollert, ‘Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (1803-1862): Prins der landschapschilders’, Dordrecht 1997.

€ 30.000,00
€ 40.000,00
€ 36.000,00

Hamerprijs: € 36.000

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