(De Werd): In the first plan the painter shows us to the left a path with some travellers and a woman sitting with her child beside and some cows. A man on a white horse speaks to her husband during a little rest on his journey. To the left a man is walking on a path, followed by his two pack donkeys. From the left, from behind the trees, the sunshine enlightens the landscape. In the centre of the composition rises a wonderful medieval castle high over the landscape.
In the painting Koekkoek represents a phantasy on the landscape of the Middle-Rhine with mountains and hills framing the composition. At the left side of the river there rises a low mountain range. On the other side of the river the ruin of a castle and in the distance the silhouette of the church and a tower of a city.
Koekkoek loved the landscape of the Middle-Rhine, with the hills and mountains, surrounding the majestic river Rhine, with the many historical castles and ruins.
This painting is a typical example for Koekkoek’s style in the fifties: the magnificent and sophisticated composition with the many higher and lower plans, the colour, the rich sunlight over the landscape, and the lovely staffage are all typical elements for Koekkoeks most achieved phase in his work. The execution of the painting is superb and the painting is in a good condition.
Notes on the artist
Barend Cornelis Koekkoek is considered the most accomplished and important of the nineteenth-century Dutch Romantic landscape painters. During his lifetime he came to be known as ‘the prince of landscape painters’.
He was the eldest son of the marine painter Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek (1778-1851). Jan Willem Pieneman and Auguste Daiwaille were his professors during his time at the Royal Academy of Arts in Antwerp. Although his landscapes of the rural surroundings of Hilversum were favourably received and earned him a gold medal in 1829, Koekkoek never fancied the Dutch countryside. In his opinion, it lacked ‘proud and sublime nature’. There were no ‘rocks, waterfalls, high mountains or romantic valleys’, as he wrote in 1841, and therefore didn’t resonate with Koekkoek’s romantic soul.
In the early 1830s therefore, he moved to Germany where the impressive Rhine landscape, did match Koekkoek’s own poetic ideal. He travelled along the rivers Ahr, Rhine and Ruhr, before finally settling in the German ducal city of Cleves in 1834. After his death in 1862 his house became the Städtisches Museum Haus Koekkoek. In Cleves, Koekkoek painted his most important landscapes, ranging from extensive vistas to more focused compositions framed by one or more oaks.
It was thus that he initiated a style of landscape painting that is now generally referred to as ‘Cleves Romanticism’, and which is characterised by a fusion of realism (or sincere study of nature) and a tendency to idealise the landscape. Under Koekkoek’s leadership Cleves became the birthplace of a new and influential school of landscape painting, with many young artists coming to Cleves to be tutored by the revered master. Koekkoek founded his own academy at Cleves in 1841, instructing his students to follow the rules of landscape painting as described in his book. Among his students were talented landscapists including Klombeck, Kruseman, Kleijn and Marianus Adrianus Koekkoek, to name but a few.
sale New York, Parke-Bernet, March 1969, no. 40 (with ill.); bought by the father of the present owner, a private Dutch collector, in London in the 1970s, thence by descent.
Apollo Magazine March 69, p. CXXXV with ill.
Dr. Guido de Werd, November 2017, to be included in the new catalogue raisonné of Koekkoeks paintings under no. 55/56.