Hendrik Jan Wolter (1873 – 1952) is regarded as one of the foremost representatives of the French Impressionistic style in Holland. His unusually broad brushstroke and his bright and colourful palette granted him the nickname “Dutch Impressionist”.
After his training in Paris in the last decade of the ninetieth-century, Wolter frequently started to paint “en plein air”, resulting in various cityscapes in The Netherlands and intimate scenes of locals in historic costume visiting the market, peasants and ports filled with the hustle and bustle of fishermen at work. Of all his subjects Wolter favoured the latter.
In this instance he pained the port of Rotterdam with a then famous tower prominently in the background. Because of its colour, local residents called it “The White Building”. When the architect Willem Molenbroek designed it at the end of the ninetieth-century and in the art nouveau style, it was for a long time the highest office space building in Europe. It was eleven stories high and had a little platform lookout on the rooftop. Because of that it had an elevator to reach the top floor, which was state-of-the-art. For the foundation of the building it took 1.000 piles. Sceptics claimed that the soft soil of Rotterdam would not be able to support the building adequately. The German bombing of the city during World War II proved their wrong: only the White House and the Sint-Laurens church, which foundation was newly fortified because of the risk of collapse, were still standing upright. The rest of the city lay in ruins. Although the recent addition of sky-scrapers in Rotterdam relieved it from being the highest building of the city, today it belongs to the top 100 UNESCO-monuments of The Netherlands.
Wolter was born in 1873 in Amsterdam but moved to Amersfoort with his family at the age of 12. In 1895 he moved to Antwerp where he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. During his academic studies in Antwerp and subsequent training in Paris, he was strongly influenced by the French Impressionists and the work of Pointillists like Seurat, Signac and Theo van Rijsselberghe.
In 1899 Wolter moved from Paris back to a small village near Amersfoort in the Netherlands. From 1908 he spent many summers in London and along the English coast line of Cornwall, Devon and Yorkshire, to paint very impressive atmospheric scenes in the small harbour towns of Polperro, Lynmouth and St. Ives. Shortly before WWI, Wolter moved from Laren into a studio at the Amsteldijk 47 in Amsterdam, with a magnificent view on the Amstel River and the bridge called ‘Hoge Sluis’. He gradually departed from the divisionistic style which he previously used. Although playful brushstrokes continued to dominate his luminous paint palette, he started to apply his paint in impastuous layers.
Restricted to his own country during W.W.I. he travelled through the Dutch coastal provinces of Zeeland (Middelburg, Veere and Zierikzee) and along the coast of the Zuiderzee (Enkhuizen, Monnikendam, Spakenburg and Harderwijk). Many harbour scenes and intimate townscapes, like the view of the famous monumental town hall of Veere, bear witness to this. After his retirement as a professor at The Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam (1924-1938), he moved to Rome but was forced to move back to Holland, to Laren, rather swiftly because of the imminent WWII.
– Sale: Sotheby Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, 7-6-1977, no. 957;
– private Dutch collection, from the grand-parents of the present owner, in the same family since circa 1977.