il on panel: 24 x 28 cm.
Signed and dated lower right A.H. Bakker Korff fec. 1876
and with authentication on the reverse
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Alexander Hugo Bakker Korff, regarded during his day as one of the best modern artists in Holland, was called the Dutch Meissonier. The son of the writer Johannes Bakker-Korff, Alexander Hugo began his training in the studio of Cornelis Kruseman along with David Bles, Herman ten Kate, Jan and Philip Koelman and Lodewyk Anthony Vincent. He also studied with J.E.J. van den Berg at The Hague Academy and later worked in the studio of Huib van Hove. From 1845 – 1848 under Gustaf Wappers and Nicaise de Keyser at the Antwerp Academy he specialized in history painting. He first exhibited in 1845 at the Tentoonstelling van levende meesters (Exhibition of works by living artists) in The Hague with a drawing of Bathsheba (no. 406). He was an excellent draughtsman, at this point much indebted to the works of Alfred Rethel and John Flaxman.
His oil paintings were devoted to biblical and historical subjects, of which Death Bed of Frederick Henry (Paleis Het Loo, Nationaal Museum, Apeldoorn) is a representative example.
After 1849 until 1859, he exhibited only one work Eene Keuken (A Kitchen) in 1852. This ten-year period marked a turning point in Bakker Korff’s career during which plagued by failing eyesight, he stopped painting for a number of years. Starting again in 1859 until his death in 1882 he regularly took part in contemporary exhibitions, but with drastically changed subject-matter. Larger-scale historical works were abandoned in favor of small-scale highly realistic genre scenes. Featuring narratives of domestic life, Bakker Korff came to be best known for affectionately portraying aging ladies in sumptuous interiors engaged in satirical situations. His sisters often served as his models. This change of direction was a result of the artist’s eye problems, which must have made working from a model more than a few feet away impossible, eventually forcing him to rely on photographs for visual support. In 1850 the albumin print, a type of photograph, was introduced and subsequently employed by Bakker Korff to capture his compositions. Yet, from this indebtedness a highly developed almost miniaturistic style of gem-like surfaces evolved. The intervention of photographs between artist and subject also led to Bakker Korff seeking to emulate the opaqueness of their surfaces. This was achieved by a concerted effort to do away with any visible brushstrokes.
In this panel two elderly ladies intensely scrutinize a letter of recommendation on the applicant that stands before them. The room overflows with objects, furnishings, and paintings that are meticulously rendered. Time has done nothing to diminish the hilarity of the situation.
A later version of the composition, signed and dated 1879 and somewhat smaller, was sold at Frederik Muller Amsterdam March 3, 1903, lot 9 and again at Frederik Muller July 6, 1915, lot 10. The preliminary drawing signed and annotated 1re Esquisse, dans la galerie de Mr Jonkh.Steengracht van Duivenvoorde, pen and ink and watercolour, 26,3 x 34.9 cm was equally sold at the Steengracht Sale, lot 398.
Paintings by Bakker Korff formed part of the permanent collections of museums in Amsterdam, Duivenvoorde, Leeuwarden, Leiden, Dordrecht, Laren, Enschede, Haarlem, The Hague, New York, Saint Louis, and Rotterdam.