The life of Andreas Schelfhout

Summary

The winter scenes and summer landscapes of Andreas Schelfhout were already very popular in his day. He painted them carefully and with a strong sense of anecdotal detail. Schelfhout lived in The Hague his entire life, but to expand his arsenal of painting motifs he travelled around the Netherlands and abroad. During his travels, he would habitually fill up his sketchbooks with nature studies, which he would subsequently use in the composition of his landscapes at his studio. In the Netherlands, Schelfhout drew inspiration from, among other things, his trips along the North Sea coast and to Gelderland, specifically around Oosterbeek, Rhenen and Doorwerth. From there, he also visited the neighbouring hills around Cleves. Together with B.C. Koekkoek, Schelfhout is considered the Netherlands’ most important romantic landscape painter. He had many pupils, including Charles Leickert, L.J. Kleijn, Nicolaas Roosenboom and, surprisingly, the innovative impressionist J.B. Jongkind.



exhibition catalogue Schelfhout 2005
Catalogue of the Schelfhout Exhibition, 2005

Important life events

February 16, 1787Born in The Hague, as son of the Ghent gilder and framemaker Jean-Baptiste Schelfhout (actually: Schelfaut) and Cornelia van Hove
April 5, 1807Notice of marriage with Cornelia Catharina Geevers
April 19, 1807Marries Cornelia Catharina Geevers
1811Exhibits for the first time: three paintings on the 'Exhibition of paintings by' painters and enthusiasts' in The Hague
May 4, 1811Birth daughter Maria Cornelia Margaretha1; she later marries Nicolaas Johannes Roosenboom (1805-1880)
1811-1815Serve an apprenticeship at The Hague theater decorator J.H.A.A. Breckenheijmer (1772-1856)
1815Debut as a professional painter, at an exhibition in ‘De Doelen’ in The Hague
1818Appointed as a member of the Royal Academy of Art in Amsterdam
1822Appointed ‘Correspondent of the Fourth Class of the Royal Netherlands Institute’
1824Exhibits for the first time a beach scene, at the ‘Exhibition of Living Masters in Amsterdam’
ca. 1824-1825Journey through the Meuse valley between Liège and Dinant
1825Member of merit of the Société Royale in Brussels
1828Creation period of the 'Liber Veritatis' (documentation sketchbook)
1829Art-practicing member of the Royal Academy in Antwerp. Teacher at ‘De Haagse Teeken-Academie’
1833Trip to France
1835Trip to England
July 25, 1838His daughter Catharina Adriana Johanna (or Maria Johanna Cornelia) married Wijnandus Johannes Josephus 'Wijnand' Nuyen (1813-1839)
April 10, 1839Remarries with Martina Maria van Wielik (1801-1868)
1839Appointed ‘Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion’
1857Extended tribute on the occasion of his 70th birthday
1861The 'Kunstalbum' (documentation sketchbook) was created
April 19, 1870Dies at the age of 83 in The Hague
April 23, 1870Buried at the cemetery ‘Eik and Duinen’ in The Hague
July 26-30, 1870Legacy auction atelier Andreas Schelfhout in The Hague

Family Tree

Family tree of the painters family of Andreas Schelfhout, Wynand Nuyen, Nicolaas Roosenboom, Margaretha Roosenboom
Only daughters were born from the marriage with Cornelia Catharina Geevers:
  1. Cornelia (1 Aug. 1808, died on the same day);
  2. Cornelia Maria (3 April 1810-15 May 1810);
  3. Maria Cornelia Margaretha (4 May 1811, date of death unknown);
  4. Cornelia Johanna Huberta (Dec. 12, 1813, date of death unknown);
  5. Cornelia Pieternella (19 June 1814, date of death unknown);
  6. Cornelia Johanna (July 21, 1815, date of death unknown);
  7. Catharina Adriana Johanna (Oct. 25, 1819-27 Sept. 1884);
  8. Maria Johanna Cornelia (1820-?).

Regarding the number of daughters, seven or eight, the family sources differ: in the overview of seven children the last daughter is not mentioned.

The family sources are also not unequivocal with Nuyen's marriage partner: in case of seven daughters Catharina Adriana Johanna (1819-1884) is mentioned as his wife, in the case of eight daughters Maria Johanna Cornelia (1820-?). Three sons were born from his marriage to Martina Maria van Wielik: Johannes Andreas van Wielik Schelfhout (date of birth unknown-28 April 1859). He was born before the wedding, but was recognized by Schelfhout on 18 January. 1853; Hendrikus Franciscus Martinus (24 December 1839-10 Jan. 1910) and Nicolaas Johannes Martinus (1 March 1841-7 February 1899).

Biography

A winter landscape with a wood-gatherer and a farmer in a boat, panel, 51 x 73 cm

A winter landscape with a wood-gatherer and a farmer in a boat

At the beginning of his career, Andreas Schelfhout rarely painted and exhibited the subject that made him so famous: winter scenes. Contemporaries and critics were initially more charmed by his summer landscapes. The above winter was painted around 1815, the year in which Schelfhout concluded his four-year art painting course at the Hague stage decorator J.H.A.A. Breckenheijmer.

Horse sled with figures on the ice in the event of an upcoming storm, panel, 15,8 x 23 cm

Horse sled with figures on the ice in the event of an upcoming storm

Although the influence of 17th century landscapes on his early paintings is unmistakable, Schelfhout already shows his identity in his first works. For example, the figures in Schelfhout's landscapes, important as a narrative element, are smaller in number than in 17th-century (winter) landscapes, emphasizing the grandeur of the landscape and the cloudy skies. Only twice before have we acquired such an early winter landscape of Schelfhout, in 1987 and 1998. Our 'discovery' of an early winter in 1998 was one of the happiest 'achievements' of our existence

Winter as a lasting tradition

Schelfhout was 24 years old and the father of two children when, in 1811, he left the gilding and framemaking business of his father to make the switch from craftsman to free artist. To this end he went into apprenticeship with Joannes Breckenheijmer. He taught him in the rules of perspective and encouraged him to study the great masters of the 17th century, for example in the picture gallery of Stadholder William V at the ‘Buitenhof’. Whether he saw work by Hendrick Avercamp and Aert van der Neer is not known, but in 1812 he painted his first winter landschape. In 1818 he received the first praising critiques of a winter scene at the Exhibition of Living Masters in Amsterdam, a genre so far unknown. After that it went uphill with his career. Schelfhout was very succesful thanks to his large winter landscapes. The acting on the ice was at that time regarded as something typically Dutch. ‘(...) those winters, where it is you as if you shiver of cold, - that mirror-smooth track, which provokes you to engage the skates ...’ (‘(…) die winters, waarbij het u is als huivert gij van koude, - die spiegelgladde baan, welke u uitlokt de schaatsen aan te binden (…)’), commended contemporary E.J. Potgieter the Dutch winter fun. Initially Schelfhout leaned heavily on 17th-century examples for this genre. His touch is somewhat stiff, the light is steel-colored and smooth and the figures are reminiscent of cut-out stickers, because a refined play of light and shadow is still missing. Gradually he got more daring and based more on his own nature study. From the mid-thirties, presumably under the influence of his son-in-law Wijnand Nuyen, his brush became looser and the atmospheric winter landschapes emerged that mark his high days. Schelfhout used refined composition schemes and a large stock of motifs that he varied and applied in varying combinations, such as a ‘koek-en-zopie’ with the national tricolor in top, some talking figures around a push-sled, frozen ships, a horse with sled, a house or mill left or right and a group of two or three swishing skaters.

Skaters and sleds on a frozen canal, panel, 52,2 x 83 cm

Skaters and sleds on a frozen canal

That his talent led to beautiful work up to old age proves the virtuoso Skaters and sleds on a frozen canal from 1869. The productive painter has already produced more than 800 paintings, many of which are winter landscapes. We see a frozen canal with skating people under a wintry cloudy sky. A horse with sleigh is located almost centrally in the painting. From there our eye wanders through a ‘koek-en-zopie’, a swinging skating couple and a windmill to the silhouette of a city on the horizon. Far into the background, the painter knows how to suggest details by using a fine brush to create targeted paint strokes. The attitude of the figures, the deep black reflecting ice, the play of light and shadow and the approaching snowstorm in the high-rising cloud columns show the craftsmanship of the master. Skaters and sleds on a frozen canal was probably Schelfhout's last painting. In the catalog of his succession auction in July 1870, the caption by the painting mentions: 'dernier tableau du maître'.

Always summery

The idea that Schelfhout is primarily an winter landscape painter is incorrect: marines, summer landscapes - including panoramas, beach and duneviews, heathlands, and forest and riverviews - form an essential and varied part of his oeuvre. In addition, he even made a few dog portraits and cityviews. Especially in his summers, changing light and shadow parts play an important role. The chiaroscuro is not only used to draw attention to certain figures or elements in a performance, but also creates depth. In Schelfhout's summers, groups of trees provide a backstage effect and also provide leafy places in a sunny landscape.

A wooded landscape with farms and a city in the distance, panel, 40,3 x 52,9 cm

A wooded landscape with farms and a city in the distance

The above painting is a striking example of this: a shady foreground and a sunny meadow on the second plan are separated by a dark strip of trees and bushes (A wooded landscape with farms and a city in the distance, panel, 40,3 x 52, 9 cm - 8173). What is more striking in this work is the typical architectural style of the farms, which have been realized in half-timbered work. They suggest that Schelfhout gained inspiration for this performance in the south of Limburg or neighboring regions. He could also have seen this way of construction in Gelderland. Schelfhout made many sketches of nature throughout his life, often spontaneous impressions, which he re-enacted in his paintings as parts of the composition. The catalog of his succession auction in 1870 included countless studies, often bundled in sketchbooks. Schelfhout could thus draw from an almost infinite arsenal of motifs, which he used in an imaginative way.

Tree Study, pencil on paper, 17,9 x 17,4 cm

Tree Study

It is conceivable that the Tree Study pictured here was finally ‘absorbed’ in a summer forest view (Tree Study, potlood op papier, 17,9 x 17,4 cm – 4358). Possibly he used the sketch of this tree even in multiple representations, also in winterrepresentations, but in a slightly modified form, to prevent repetition.

Appreciation

Almost annually Schelfhout submitted one or more paintings to the Exhibition of Living Masters, one of the most important national exhibitions in his time. The exhibition lists show that between 1811 and 1870 Schelfhout mainly submitted summer landscapes. Snow and winter landscapes appear more and more often in the aforementioned lists over the years, but summer landscapes remain the majority of his contributions to these exhibitions. The structure of these submissions could be representative of Schelfhout's entire oeuvre, but this is not certain. Given his status as 'Winter frost' and the popularity of his winter landscapes, it is suspected that Schelfhout actually painted more winters than summers. The fact that many of his winter landscapes did not appear at public exhibitions was determined by the market: many wanted an winter landscape from Schelfhout and that is why they were either painted on commission or already reserved in advance for private buyers or trade. Directly from his studio, sometimes even to collectors of Royal blood, they were therefore no longer available for exhibitions. In this way many paintings 'disappeared' in private collections, often not documented by Schelfhout. Only when the entire oeuvre of Schelfhout has been mapped will it become clear whether the winters really outnumber the summers. The success of an artist was largely determined by the market in Schelfhout's time, as an artist can still be ‘made or broken’ by ‘fashion’ and good or bad criticism. Schelfhout also experienced this. As a result of his Romantic taste, his fame grew constantly during his life, but afterwards it went downhill. The art-critical tide turned: the emerging Impressionist vision on landscape painting, in which working directly towards nature was key, made the idealized landscapes of the Romantic Era passé. The rise of the Hague School meant that works such as Schelfhout's were gaining less and less appreciation, which can also be read in the literature of that time. Only after the Second World War, under the leadership of art dealer Pieter A. Scheen (1916-2003), the revaluation of Romantic Era began. And since a number of decades, Andreas Schelfhout's paintings have received great recognition both nationally and internationally.

Rediscoverer of the Beach Scene

In the 19th century, Andreas Schelfhout was one of the first painters to focus on the Dutch sea and beach scene, thereby contributing to a revaluation of this genre in his time. From 1824 on he regularly painted performances of the beach of Scheveningen, with fishermen, and later also with flâneurs. His interest in the beach scene was awakened by seventeenth-century marines in the Royal collections in The Hague and works by French, German and English contemporary painters. It is assumed that Schelfhout gradually started to use a warmer colourite, a looser brush and new motifs from the mid-thirties because of these foreign influences. Since a journey to France in 1833 Schelfhout had a great admiration for the work of Eugène Isabey (1803-1886), with whom he personally would meet in The Hague in 1845. He had, among other things, Isabeys litho-series 'Environs de Dieppe' (1833), from which he drew inspiration for his beaches and seascapes, and especially for a number of French coastal scenes. Schelfhout has played an important role in the transformation and the appearance of this genre with its beaches. As a result, he had a great influence on later artists, mainly on the painters of the Hague School. It is presumed that Schelfhout's later son-in-law Wijnand Nuyen prompted him to become acquainted with artistic developments abroad. Nuyen was one of Schelfhout's most gifted students. He was strongly oriented towards international Romanticism, and traveled several times to Belgium, Germany and France. A trip to France in 1833, accompanied by Antonie Waldorp (1803-1866), was decisive for Nuyen: he became acquainted with the painting of Isabey - stormy Norman coastal scenes and tranquil harbors - painted with a fiery brush, in dramatic colors and with strong light-dark contrasts. This work made a big impression on Nuyen, as well as that of Eugène Delacroix and Richard Parkes Bonington. In his short life - for 26 years - Nuyen developed an intensely Romantic vision of the representation of the landscape, thus giving a new impetus to Dutch landscape painting, also to that of his teacher Schelfhout.

Fishermen and flaneurs

In his works Schelfhout sometimes brings out the figures, which emphasizes not only the landscape but also the narrative character of the performance.

Fish auction on the beach, panel, 44,3 x 63,5 cm

Fish auction on the beach

In Fish Auction on the beach he ‘tells’ about the animated crowds around a fish auction, with walking fishermen and interested buyers, and in Elegant figures on the beach about carefree fun on a beautiful spring day.

A winter landscape with a wood-gatherer and a farmer in a boat, panel, 51 x 73 cm

Elegant figures on the beach

The appearance of fashionable flaneurs in the 19th-century beach scene is an indication of a new ‘function’ of the beach: traditionally this was the domain of fishermen, but in the course of the 19th century, due to the emergence of the modern bath culture, company of walkers and bathers. Following the English example, seaside resorts along the Belgian, Dutch and German coasts arose in the first decades of the 19th century. Especially when doctors assigned a healing effect to seawater, people gradually ventured for their health and pleasure in the water. The sea was no longer just an enemy, which they did not voluntarily enter, but was now also seen as beneficial. The first seaside resorts in the Netherlands were Scheveningen (1818) and Zandvoort (1824). The opening of the urban bathhouse in Scheveningen in 1828, where the Kurhaus now stands, played an important role in the rise of the Dutch bath culture. This development can also be seen in Schelfhout's paintings: although he usually decorated his beach scenes with fishermen and ships only, from the late forties onwards, colorfully dressed flaneurs can also be seen on his beaches. Works like the latter are a precursor to the fashionable beach scenes-with-seaside guests who would be so loved by the impressionists and later painters.

Schelfhouts travels

Schelfhout lived in The Hague all his life; the surrounding landscape and nearby Scheveningen offered him lots of inspriration to paint. He did, however, make a number of domestic and foreign journeys in order to get acquainted with foreign art developments and to expand his painting motifs through nature studies. However, as far as is known, little is written about this. It is therefore mainly the sketches and paintings that tell us about his treks, where the summers are often more topographical than the winters. Although a complete overview of his travels is still missing, his work reveals that he had been in Gelderland, Oosterbeek, Rhenen and Doorwerth. Probably he also visited the adjoining hilly landscape around Kleve, which had been the home of B.C. Koekkoek since 1834. Schelfhout also traveled through the provinces along the North Sea coast and probably also traveled to Limburg. The well-known biographer Johannes Immerzeel made mention of Schelfhout's foreign tours in his lexicon: in 1833 he traveled to France, in 1835 to England and later to Belgium and Germany. Furthermore, he probably made a trip through the Meuse valley in (later) Belgian Limburg around 1824-1825, judging by his Liber Veritatis (1825-1828), a sketchbook in which he recorded works already made.

A hilly river landscape with a ruin, panel, 32,9 x 38,2 cm

A hilly river landscape with a ruin

Also a cityscape of Huy on the Mease, which he exhibited in 1825 at the Exhibition of Living Masters in The Hague, points to this. The above river landscape is possibly also inspired by this Mease journey.

Drawings

Schelfhout's drawings can be divided into three categories: nature studies and composition drawings, independent drawings, and documenting drawings. Nature studies and composition sketches, made by Schelfhout directly in nature from 1811 on, were seldom meant to be followed without any reason. They helped the painter study composition and light and then served as a source of inspiration in compiling independent drawings and paintings in the studio.

Drawing by Andreas Schelfhout

Drawing by Andreas Schelfhout

They are usually executed in pencil or black chalk or, as shown on the drawing here, in a combination of these. Although these kind of spontaneous impressions were mainly intended for personal use, they often found their way to the cabinets of collectors.

The two great masters Schelfhout and Koekkoek

This idyllic mountain landscape, bathed in the golden light of an early summer evening, painted Schelfhout in 1849.

A shepherdess and her flock in a hilly summer landscape

A shepherdess and her flock in a hilly summer landscape

Most probably the same canvas was on show at the Exhibition of Living Masters in The Hague that same year, where it was given the title: Landscape in the surroundings of Kassel, at sunset. The landscape does indeed not look very Dutch. From a considerable height we look at a wooded river valley, which reaches to the horizon, and on the far right is a large rock formation. In the foreground a hollow sand road with a herd of sheep and their guardian, and a little to the right of it, on the edge of the path, three travelers rest. In the year that Schelfhout painted this landscape he was, next to Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (1803-1862), the highest-rated landscape painter of his time. Schelfhout was most prized for his Dutch panoramas and winter landscapes. Koekkoek excelled in forest and mountain landscapes upholstered with age-old trees. He had a lot of influence on students and fellow painters with the book Memories and communications from a landscape painter (1841). In it, he laid down his views on landscape painting, and he praised the untouched nature of the German Rhineland, on which many of his paintings were inspired. The above landscape of Schelfhout is regarding to subject matter and upholstery strongly reminiscent of the panoramic mountain landscapes that Koekkoek painted in the thirties and forties. The italianising upholstery with the resting peasant woman on the donkey and the bright red skirt of the women strongly points in the direction of Koekkoek and his source, the 17th century Nicolaes Berchem (1620-1683). Especially in the thirties this type of figures combined with a warm, golden evening light led to idealized, pastoral landscapes, which were very popular with collectors. The admiration Schelfhout showed, with a similar work, for the 16-year-younger painter was also answered. Koekkoek spoke appreciatively of ‘our great Schelfhout’ and presented his scenes inspired by the flat, Dutch landscape as an example of the ideal of natural fidelity, simplicity and truth. Although this landscape looks rather composed for us, the early 19th-century art lover experienced it as realistic and natural after the strict 18th-century classicism. For a beautifully painted landscape, the painter had to select the finest parts of nature and merge them into a landscape that surpassed reality in beauty, without, however, destroying credibility. To this end he had to study nature carefully and closely. It was also important that he taught his impressions, the shortest way to the emotions of the spectator. ‘Please satisfy yourself with the impression it makes on your soul; try, if you can, to keep them pure, it will help you to create, (‘Vergenoeg u met den indruk, dien het op uwe ziel maakt; tracht, zoo gij kunt, dezen rein te bewaren, het zal u leren scheppen’)’ wrote Koekkoek in his Announcements. Schelfhout's landscapes corresponded optimally with this ideal of nature as a mentor. Already in 1824, the prominent art critic Jeronimo de Vries wrote that his work excelled by 'simplicity and truth, those faithful companions of the eternally beautiful (‘eenvoudigheid en waarheid, die getrouwe gezellinnen van het eeuwig schoone’ )’ and in 1844 C.A. Kruseman in his ‘Album of Hollandsche and Vlaamsche Kunstschilders’ about Schelfhout: ‘Who supported his first, shaky steps on the steep and slippery path, who gave him the track to independent progress, who brought him into the temple of immortality? So will the offspring ask; our answer is: Nature. She, and she alone was the teacher of Schelfhout. (...)(‘Wie heeft zijne eerste, wankele schreden op het steile en glibberige pad ondersteund, wie heeft hem den spoorslag gegeven tot onafhankelijken voortgang, wie hem den tempel der onsterfelijkheid binnengevoerd? Zoo zal het nageslacht vragen; ons antwoord is: de Natuur. Zij, en zij alleen was de leermeester van Schelfhout. (…)’)’.

Simplicity, Truth and the Eternally Beautiful

The attractiveness of Schelfhout's landscapes lies in the perfect application of the then-current aesthetic ideal of ‘Simplicity, Truth and the Eternally Beautiful’. In his works, nature and ‘honest’ rural life were elevated to ideal (Simplicity); the landscapes have been deceptively faithfully painted (Truth), without being an exact representation of nature, but a composition from the most beautiful parts of reality (the Eternally Beautiful). This resulted in paintings that are pleasant to look at. In his winters there was no drowning skater in a break in the ice and chilling figures on the ice, but cheerful roaming people, friendly scenes at a sled and pleasant crowds at a ‘koek-en-zopie’ on sunny ice fields. And in his summers there are no shabby vagrants or fattened farmers with skinny draft horses, but chatting, colorfully dressed country people with well-fed cattle on a summer sandpad. And if the storm blows and the air threatens to announce even more bad weather, there is always warm shelter for a belated traveler and a helping hand in the neighborhood. BC Koekkoek wrote in his Memories and communications of a landscape painter (1841) about Schelfhout's landscapes: ‘Would you like to see what is of a flat, simple rural scene, as the same bears the stamp of nature, the mark of truth, can be made clean and charming? to become? Consider the works of our great Schelfhout. In it you will find the simple nature at the most elegant, but also with a faithfulness and truth, which only a Schelfhout can imagine.(‘Wilt gij zien wat er van een vlak, eenvoudig landelijk tafereel, als hetzelfde den stempel der natuur, het merk der waarheid draagt, schoons en bevalligs kan gemaakt worden? Beschouwt dan de werken van onzen grooten Schelfhout. Daarin zult gij de eenvoudige natuur op het sierlijkst, maar tevens met eene getrouwheid en waarheid, wat alleen een Schelfhout vermag, voorgesteld vinden.’)’.

The 'Claude Lorrain of winter views'

The admiration for the summer and winter landscapes of Schelfhout was so great in the 1940s that critics gave him praising nicknames, such as 'Modern painter of the landscape' and 'Claude Lorrain of the winter scenes'. The French painter Claude Lorrain (1600-1682) immersed his pastoral landscapes in moody morning light or twilight. The idyllic atmosphere that came into being was greatly admired in the 19th century. Perhaps Schelfhout thanked the comparison with this 18th-century master of his high skies, the bright light and his ability to lead the viewer's gaze to infinite distances in the winter landscape. But that means the comparison. In contrast to Lorrain's highly idealized representations, Schelfhout's winters were grafted into reality, and they derive their success from their natural fidelity and recognizable Dutch, wintery atmosphere. ‘Only as Schelfhout represents the winter, in the white garment and with the colorful crowd of skating riders, we find something tempting (‘Alleen zoo als Schelfhout den winter voorstelt, in het witte gewaad en met de bonte menigte van schaatsen-rijders, vinden wij er iets aanlokkelijks in’)’, wrote a critic in 1841 in ‘De Kunstkronijk’. Schelfhout filled countless sketchbooks with studies on nature, both in summer and in winter, which he then used in the composition of the ice scenes in his studio. There are indications that he was also inspired by nature in a more direct way. For example, in June 1832, in response to the delivery of an ordered winter landscape to his commissioner Johannes Immerzeel, he wrote: ‘... and since we are now living in the Summer, I have no tricks [trick] from me, the Winter so much to mind that I would be able to paint one (...) and you would have to take it up until next winter (‘... en daar wij nu in het Zomer leeven zijn heb ik geen truk [truc] van mij de Winter zoo danig voor den geest te halen dat ik in staat zoude zijn er een te kunnen schilderen (...) en gij zou den gedult moeten nemen tot aanstaande winter’)’.

Craftsman and master

In his landscapes Schelfhout considered atmosphere and natural fidelity more important than a topographically correct representation. In his panoramic landscapes with a view of a city like Haarlem or Dordrecht, he also freely combined building volumes with landscape sketches that he had made in the vicinity of these cities. Condition was that Haarlem should not be in a polder landscape or that he did not paint Dordrecht from a dune top.

A dune landscape with Haarlem in the distance, with a steam train on the horizon

A dune landscape with Haarlem in the distance, with a steam train on the horizon

For the above dune landscape, painted in 1847, he found inspiration in the dune area between Haarlem and Amsterdam (A dune landscape with Haarlem in the distance, with a steam train on the horizon, panel, 31,6 x 41,1 cm - 8824). On the horizon, the silhouette of the Haarlem St Bavo Church is vaguely visible. A curious and contemporary element is formed by the smoke plume of the steam train Amsterdam - The Hague, which ran close to Haarlem. In 1839 the rail link between Amsterdam and Haarlem was established, which finally opened this dune area for visitors and commuters. In 1842 the railway was extended in a southerly direction to Leiden, and a year later to The Hague. The painting contains everything one may wish for from a mature work by Schelfhout. The landscape is smoothly painted but beautifully detailed, the composition is balanced and the whole testifies to a great craftsmanship and color feeling. It is made up of brown and dark green tones with here and there bright red and blue accents. The high cloudy sky with blue tingling through bright light and in the low vegetation in the foreground the painter set white light accents with an individual brush to enliven the painting. A dune landscape with Haarlem in the distance, with a steam train on the horizon was not the first painting with this subject of Schelfhout, and certainly not the last. Between 1830 and 1855 many versions were realized, each time seen from different viewpoints, with or without the ruin of the Brederode Castle.

'Here and there a foamy cloud'

Around 1850, at the height of his abilities, Schelfhout painted this panoramic landscape at sunset. To the left of the foreground a hilltop with a farm hut, some figures and cattle. A calm pond with moored sailing ships pulls the spectator's gaze to the middle plan and leads him to a flat river landscape that reaches to a blue mountains on the horizon. All of this under a clear, high sky like Schelfhout could paint so cleverly.

Figures on a path in a panoramic landscape

Figures on a path in a panoramic landscape

The panoramic view, loved by 17th-century Dutch masters such as Filips Koninck and Jacob van Ruysdael, was re-introduced by Schelfhout in the 19th century and further developed into a genre with which he reaped at least as much success in the thirties and forties as with his winter landscapes. The need to seek connection with the great predecessors was motivated by a prevailing 'national feeling' in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with the Golden Age as a period of economic, political and artistic flourishing being taken as an example by many Dutchmen. Schelfhout also found inspiration in nature for his panoramic landscapes. It is known, for example, that he regularly undertook sketch trips to the dunes near Haarlem and to the region around Beek and Nijmegen, areas that due to their differences in height were regarded as the most picturesque parts of Holland. From the 1930s Schelfhout visited the village of Beek several times, where he made sketches which he later combined in his studio into beautiful landscape pieces. The source of inspiration was undoubtedly also the popular lithographic series Gezigten from Holland and Belgium (1836) and Vues pittoresques du Royaume des Pays-Bas (1830/1831), which sparked the taste for panoramas and vistas. These Dutch panoramas were also added to diaries, travel descriptions and poems at that time. ‘The air is clear and silent here, with here and there a foamy cloud, like a flake of wool (...)In the East blue as lazuli, in the West orange as Gold (‘De lucht is hier helder en stil, met hier en daar een schuimig wolkjen, als een vlok wol (…). In het Oosten blauw als lazuursteen, in het Westen oranje als Goud’)’. 'wrote Nicolaas Beets in his diary when visiting Beek in 1845. It seems like he was describing a painting by Schelfhout.

‘Voyages pittoresques’

Traveling artists are from all ages. Making (foreign) journeys was even considered an essential part of the cultural development of painters, writers, poets and art lovers. Romanticism was the heyday of the so-called 'voyages pittoresques', where finding the ideal landscape was the main destination. Romantic escapism was cultivated, unknown cities and regions with overwhelming natural beauty were considered as inspiration for Great Art. Schelfhout was faithful to that tradition and made several trips at home and abroad, for example to acquire painting motifs. B.C. Koekkoek, Schelfhouts contemporary and artistically equal, expressed this nature worship in his Memories and Commitments of a Landscape Painter (1841) in this way:' She [nature] alone grants it to you with an attentive contemplation of her majesty and greatness. Does it not display the beauty scenes of your eye that could not possibly describe another to you? Is it not she who gives the poet the highest substance? Go out ... and you will enrich your sensitive soul with a wealth of beautiful ideas that you can try to achieve afterwards in your room on the canvas or panel (‘Zij [de natuur] alleen schenkt u die bij eene aan- dachtige beschouwing harer majesteit en grootheid. Spreidt zij geene prachttaferelen voor uw oog ten toon, die onmogelijk een ander u zou kunnen beschrijven? Is zij het niet, die den dichter de verhevenste stof schenkt? Gaat naar buiten (…) en gij zult uwe gevoelige ziel met eenen rijkdom van schoone denkbeelden verrijken, die gij naderhand op uwe kamer op het doek of paneel kunt trachten te verwezenlijken’).

Figures in a panoramic landscape

Figures in a panoramic landscape

To respond to the 19th-century longing for the strange unkown, back then, many illustrated travel reports and series of topographical prints were published. For example, Schelfhout produced two prints for Voyage pittoresque dans le Royaume Pays Bas, dédié à Madame la Princesse d'Orange (1822-1825), a series of lithographs that was part of a 21-part series about regions in Europe and the Orient. The catalog of his estate sale auction shows that Schelfhout owned many such foreign prints and lithoseries. It is plausible that this visual material - in addition to his own nature studies, made while travelling - was also a source of inspiration for Schelfhout, especially for foreign-like performances. This was not a unusual artistic practice. The above landscape could be situated in the German low mountain range, where it can not be said with certainty whether Schelfhout has seen such a panorama with his own eyes, or whether it has sprung from a journey in his imagination.

Forerunner of Impressionism

Johan Barthold Jongkind was, with the recently deceased Wijnand Nuyen, Schelfhout's most outspoken and innovative pupil. From 1837 on Jongkind took lessons at the Haagsche Teeken-Academie by Schelfhout, and also received training in his studio. The teacher saw the extraordinary talent of his pupil and used his status and contacts in royal circles to ensure that the unmediated Jongkind could continue to dedicate himself to his painting study. He received a royal subsidy from King Willem I in 1839. Through the mediation of Schelfhout and the secretary of the Prince of Orange, Jongkind was able to go to Paris in 1845 with the French painter Eugène Isabey, supported financially by a monthly Royal subsidy until 1853. This trip marked his emigration to France, where he - with the exception of a Rotterdam period (1855-1859) and a few home trips - would live for the rest of his life. As an artist he remained faithful to the landscape of his homeland, perhaps out of nostalgia, but certainly also to meet the demand of enthusiasts. He painted Dutch polders with windmills, rivers, harbors, meadows and cloudy skies throughout his life. Jongkind - like Schelfhout - made studies into nature to quickly capture color and light impressions. Unlike his teacher, who depicted a timeless and ideal landscape, Jongkind wanted and managed to retain the effect of the direct impression in his paintings, as if the performance had not been put on the canvas in the studio, but on the spot and plein air. Free and original, and contrary to traditional painting, he painted his landscapes and cityviews. For the early French impressionists, Jongkinds innovative paintingstyle was leading, which earned him the honorable status of ‘Precursor of impressionism’.

Andreas Schelfhout and Jacobus van der Stok: the similarity and differences

The virtuosity of Schelfhout is unmistakably fixed and has never been surpassed. Painters such as Barend Cornelis Koekkoek, Hermanus Koekkoek and Cornelis Springer came close to it, but nobody could outpace the master of the Dutch winter landscapes in terms of artistry and professionalism. If Wijnand Nuyen had lived longer, only he might have had the chance to surpass Schelfhout. Andreas Schelfhout was a late bloomer. After the middle of the thirties of the nineteenth century, when he was almost fifty years old, the quality of his work grew, while in the fifties and sixties his erratic brushwork was almost impressionistic in character, combined with a beautiful contrast richness and a Romantic colourite. Before that, in and around the 1920s, Schelfhout was admittedly a renowned artist, who belonged to the best landscape painters of his time, but did not quite exceed the other greats of early Dutch Romanticism. It is known that he even consulted Wijnand Nuyen, his promising son-in-law, to adjust the green colourite in his summer landscapes. There are certainly two 19th-century painters whose work from the twenties is insidiously similar to that of Schelfhout, so that there can be a mutual influence: Hendrik van der Sande Bakhuyzen and Jacobus van der Stok. The former made a name with large-scale cattle. But where he does not paint cattle, the stylistic similarities between his work and that of Schelfhout are so surprising that, in the absence of a sign, many Romantic connoisseurs were brought to doubts. As far as I know, work by Van de Sande Bakhuyzen has almost never been 'renamed', or rather falsified, with the signature ‘A. Schelfhout’.

Jacobus van der Stok,  A winter landscape with figures near a farmstead

Jacobus van der Stok, A winter landscape with figures near a farmstead

For although Schelfhout was the best paid master compared to Van de Sande Bakhuyzen, it is of course better to sell a fair work of the latter than a fake signed ‘Schelfhout’ (Jacobus van der Stok, A winter landscape with figures near a farmstead, panel , 38 x 49,7 cm - 6705). But forgers do not shun anything, especially when it comes to a painting with a relatively small signature and pass it on for that of a well-known signature. The early work of Van der Stok from the twenties and early thirties also resembles that of Schelfhout from that period. Not only in terms of colourite and brushwork, but also in terms of composition scheme. People are quick to say that Van der Stok will have imitated the work of Schelfhout, but that is by no means certain. Most probably both have been inspired by the work of 17th century landscape painters such as Mijndert Hobbema. But that there are paintings by Jacobus van der Stok who now bear the signature of Schelfhout is certain. Not so long ago we had a similar painting in our restoration studio. The later applied signature of Schelfhout was removed; some vague remains of Van der Stok's were still visible. A dangerous and painful consequence of the omissions described above may be that Romantic art lovers view Schelfhout's authentic compositions with suspicion and soon see a Van der Stok; and so honest works of the master himself for false work of a smaller hand. I now have five paintings that were not sold as Schelfhout but as 'Dutch School' or as Van der Stok, H. Gobell and P.F. de Noter, again rehabilitated and attributed to the right maker. - by Frank Buunk

The same site

Farmstead

Farmstead

Not so long ago I came across a nice summer landscape of Andries Schelfhout, which was auctioned in a good Dutch Vendue house, which was 'downed' as being a work by Van der Stok. Wrongly, as it turned out later. To prove this, it was compared to a small landscape by Van der Stok from the thirties that had been auctioned in Zurich shortly before. Now I had just bought that painting at that Swiss auction, so that I could compare it myself. The painting of Schelfhout is considerably more refined in the leaf stroke and significantly less stiff and tidy in the effect of the sky and the farm; it is also of a much higher level. But otherwise there is so much similarity, that it seems as if between both landscapes the painters have been painting on the same ‘stekkie’, using the same palette. There is simply a very strong influence that, although not likely, could even have been mutual. - by Frank Buunk

His own, fresh look

Charles Leickert was one of the most talented Schelfhout students. Since a very young age - he was 11 years old - he took lessons at the Haagsche Teeken-Academie, where he, among others, got to know P.G. Vertin and Samuel Verveer. He learned painting at the workshops of Bart van Hove, Wijnand Nuyen and after his death in 1839 at Schelfhout. It is said that Leickert, thanks to his artistic gifts, managed to get away from the strong influence of this teacher. His winter landscapes with skating people, especially in composition and motif choice, are clearly based on the work of Schelfhout. But his phenomenal sense of color, his eye for space and the often surprising play with light and shadow saved him from an overly slavish imitation. Originally Leickert shows citysviews with many figures and in his summery river views, the attraction of which is largely determined by the lively upholstery and all kinds of contemporary details.

Charles Henri Joseph Leickert, Fisherfolk from Scheveningen

Charles Henri Joseph Leickert, Fisherfolk from Scheveningen

The dune view with the sea in the distance, as shown above, also shows its own, fresh view of this subject ('Charles' Henri Joseph Leickert, Fisherfolk from Scheveningen, canvas, 45,8 x 61,4 cm - 7697). Just like his tutor, Leickert based his paintings on sketches and he frequently went out to draw houses, boats, dunes, cloud formations, bits of city and especially figures. He used these studies as a sort of drawings archive where he could get inspired when needed. Especially after 1848, when he shared a studio in Amsterdam with Samuel Verveer, a successful period for the painter started.

Views from a hilltop

Johannes Pieter van Wisselingh had already built up a certain reputation as a painter in the area of Rhenen when he was apprenticed to Schelfhout in 1840 to become proficient in the landscape genre. Four years later he left for Renkum, and then settled in Utrecht for good in 1848. The oeuvre of the painter consists besides forest and heath views largely of panoramic summer landscapes, in which he shows a preference for topographical details.

Johannes Pieter van Wisselingh, A view of Rhenen in summer

Johannes Pieter van Wisselingh, A view of Rhenen in summer

His views are known for Haarlem, Voorburg, Heelsum, Arnhem, Amersfoort and, as here, at Rhenen. From a height the viewer looks at the picturesque town on the Rhine, with the landmark of the Cunerachurch tower as its landmark. As a point of view for his panorama, Van Wisselingh chose the ‘Koerheuvel’, perhaps to make the most important image motif, the ‘Panoramamill’, look good. This flourmill, built on an old bastion, together with the Cuneratoren determined the view of Rhenen. In terms of composition, Van Wisselingh's panoramas are related to those of his famous teacher. The representation is usually closed to the left and right by attention-grabbing visual elements. He creates depth through a high viewpoint and alternating zones of light and shadow, interrupted by groups of trees, figures and buildings. Schelfhout also painted a view on Rhenen, but then seen from the ‘Grebbeberg’.

A horse painter 'par excellence'

The Belgian painter Joseph Jodocus Moerenhout gained fame as a horse painter: in his landscapes, genre scenes and military scenes, the noble four-legged friend often plays the leading role. In 1824/1825 and from 1831 to 1854 he lived in The Hague, where he collaborated with, among others, Schelfhout. Together they made several paintings, with Moerenhout taking care of the upholstery. Schelfhout has undoubtedly taught Moerenhout the subtleties of landscape painting in this period, and he probably refined his depiction of horses and figures by Moerenhout.

Joseph Jodocus Moerenhout, After the hunt

Joseph Jodocus Moerenhout, After the hunt

This clear, finely developed hunting scene in a dune landscape from 1840 shows that Moerenhout not only had to lose a reputation as a figure and horse painter, but also as a landscape painter. Outsourcing of the decoration of people, animals, buildings and other attributes to another painter was a customary method until well into the 19th century. It was even part of the studio practice: the master set up the show, was responsible for the main subject and the most important visual elements in the painting, the pupils often took care of the updating. The practice of specialization, focusing on a particular genre within painting, also elicited this use: portraitists, painters of floral arrangements and still lifes, cattle painters, marinists and landscape painters made use of each other's specific skills where necessary. It is known that Schelfhout not only collaborated with Moerenhout, but that he also let P.G. van Os (1776-1839) upholster his works with cattle, and that J.J. Eeckhout (1793- 1861) painted the figures in one of his Gelderland landscapes.

In the footsteps of Schelfhout

Cornelis Petrus ‘t Hoen only started painting professionally at a later age. He was a merchant by profession, and first gave in to his artistic aspirations after his marriage with the painter Gertruida Maria Buys. ‘T Hoen initially followed lessons with George Andries Roth (1809-1887) and later with Antonie Waldorp (1803-1866). In the years 1841 and 1842 he studied at the Haagse Teeken-Academy, where he was further educated in drawing and painting under the direction of Schelfhout. It is possible that ‘t Hoen also followed painting lessons by Schelfhout in his studio. In the footsteps of Schelfhout, ‘t Hoen devoted himself to the representation of mainly wintry scenes. He also painted summer landscapes, city and river views. The subjects, composition and color of his paintings show that he was a talented but docile student of his master. Lodewijk Johannes Kleijn was also initiated by Schelfhout into the secrets of landscape painting. After his apprenticeship, he managed to compose ideal summer and winter landscapes, just like Schelfhout. Kleijn mainly sought his subjects in and around his residence in The Hague and painted mainly glacial views. He also made river and beach views, some city scenes, panoramic landscapes and a number of works by Kleve and surroundings, where he stayed for a longer period around 1840.

Winters according to Schelfhouts rules

Summer landscapes, beach scenes, but especially the Dutch winter landscape, with or without ice and skaters, were the specialty of Schelfhout's pupil Johannes Franciscus Hoppenbrouwers. He was born in The Hague in 1819 and was enrolled as a pupil at the Haagse Teeken-Academie from 1839 onwards. He also learned how to paint at Schelfhout's studio, at the same time as J.B. Jongkind, J.G. Hans and Charles Leickert. Especially in the 1940s Hoppenbrouwers had great success with his winter paintings. At the Exhibition of Living Masters they went for decent amounts of money and in 1845 King William II bought a richly upholstered panoramic winter landscape, in addition to his collection of paintings.

Johannes Franciscus Hoppenbrouwers, A winter landscape with skaters and a koek-en-zopie

Johannes Franciscus Hoppenbrouwers, A winter landscape with skaters and a koek-en-zopie

The Winter landscape depicted here with skaters at a koek-en-zopie is sober in composition, but nevertheless contains all the elements that made a 'winter' attractive at the time: a frozen canal with skaters and a koek-en-zopie, a tree in winter, a Dutch windmill and a high cloudy sky (Johannes Franciscus Hoppenbrouwers, A winter landscape with skaters and a koek-en-zopie, cloth, 54 x 70 cm - 12327). On the two figures on the right you can see that the figure drawing did not go too well for the painter. He often had his work upholstered by colleagues from the academy such as David Bles and Samuel Verveer. For his Gelderse landscapes he called in the help of his friend Charles Rochussen, as for the painting Elegant company in the landscape of Montferland, Gelderland. Hoppenbrouwers lived and worked his entire life in The Hague. Given some paintings of the German Rhine, it is plausible that he made a study trip to Germany.

Wind and willows

Jan Willem van Borselen was apprenticed to Schelfhout when he already had the respectable age of 68 years. He was born in Gouda in the South of Holland and was a student of his father Pieter van Borselen, a painter of tree-lined landscapes and cityscapes. From 1855 he worked at Schelfhout's studio, mostly in the company of Jan Bedijs Tom, who had already built up a good reputation as a cattle painter, but wanted to become proficient in landscape painting. Van Borselen does not, however, capture the ideal landscapes of his teacher, but he develops into a 'fair interpreter' of nature under the influence of rising naturalism. At the same time, he uses a well thought-out composition in which sun and shadow parts alternate. In the vicinity of his birthplace Gouda, Van Borselen finds the main theme of his painting: the flat land that is cut off from the waterways and lakes, surrounded by willows and poplars, whose branches bend and sway in an ever-present wind. Like Schelfhout, he undertook long wanderings to study nature. In addition to the South of Holland polder area, the Gelderland forests and heath, the river landscape around the IJssel and the surroundings of his later residence The Hague were also sources of inspiration. During sketching he also made small, painted panels, which served as the starting point for his studio pieces. That was not very common yet. It is said that Schelfhout, for example, did not want to waste paint by painting outside.

Grandfather Schelfhout, son-in-law and Granddaughter

Nicolaas Johannes Roosenboom was one of Schelfhout's better pupils, what clearly emerges in his upholstered beach scenes and summer and winter landscapes. Especially the low horizon, depth and attention to narrative details Roosenboom learnt from his master. He came to rather unusual, original compositions in his winter landscapes. The sale of his work enabled him to make many study trips, including Germany (1829), Scotland and England (1835). Presumably around 1840 he married Schelfhout's daughter Maria Cornelia Marghareta. Their daughter Margaretha Roosenboom developed into one of the most important flower paintings of the 19th century. She received the first painting lessons from her father, while Grandfather Andreas Schelfhout taught her the watercolor technique. She preferred to paint flowers in their most natural state, suitable in vases or as a bouquet loosely laid out on the ground or on a stone plinth. With this she consciously broke the tradition of the 18th century, carefully arranged showroom still life. Often one type of flower is the main motif of her paintings and watercolors. A contemporary wrote about her warm tones and specific use of color: ‘Vermeer had his own blue (...) Rembrandt's golden color range, Margaretha Roosenboom her nuances, as pink shining pearls (‘Vermeer had zijn eigen blauw (…) Rembrandt zijn gulden kleurengamma, Margaretha Roosenboom haar, als roze paarlen glanzende nuanceringen’)’. Margaretha Roosenboom married Johannes Gijsbertus Vogel, who was a pupil of her grandfather. Like Van Borselen, he initially continued the landscape tradition of his master, but under the influence of rising naturalism he started painting more impressionistically.