In my last blog I looked at the life of Johan Jongkind. His initial artistic tuition came when he attended the Drawing Academy of The Hague and it was here that he was taught by Andreas Schelfhout. Having looked at the life of the pupil I thought it only right to spend some time looking at the life and work of the teacher, so today my featured artist is Andreas Schelfhout.
After the great periods of Dutch art in the Golden Age of the 17th century, there came many economic and political problems which lessened the activity in art in the country. However, the fine arts in the Netherlands enjoyed a revival around 1830, which is a period that is now referred to as the Romantic School in Dutch painting. The style of painting during this period was an imitation of the great 17th century artists. The most widely accepted paintings of this period were landscapes and paintings which reflected national history. One of the leading painters of this time was Andreas Schelfhout whose works included landscapes, especially winter scenes, and also paintings depicting woodlands and the dunes between The Hague and Scheveningen.
Andreas Schelfhout became one of the most important and influential Dutch landscape artists of the 19th Century. He was born in The Hague in 1787. His father owned a gilding and picture framing business and it was here that Andreas worked until 1811. During this time Andreas painted a number of pictures in his spare time and in 1811 he submitted some of his works at an exhibition in The Hague for amateur artists. His paintings were well received, so much so, that his father realised that his son may be able to earn a living as an artist and so arranged for him to study art under Joannes Breckenheimer, a painter of stage scenery. Breckenheimer taught him to paint motifs such as city scenes and landscape but also instructed him in the technical aspects of painting, such as perspective and paint preparation. Schelfhout, during this time, made detailed studies of the great 17th Century Dutch Masters of landscape art such as Meindert Hobbema and Jacob van Ruisdael. It was also during this period that he learned to sketch en plein air. Schelfhout remained with Breckenheimer for four years at which time he decided to go it alone and set up his own workshop in 1815.
In those early days his works were very popular with the art lovers from The Hague but little was known about him in the outlying areas. Soon however his fame spread to Belgium and with fame, came commissions. In 1818 he exhibited a set of four paintings depicting the four seasons at an exhibition in Amsterdam and that year he became a member of the Royal Academy for Visual Arts of Amsterdam. The following year, 1819, he received a Gold Medal at the exhibition in Antwerp and three years later, in 1822, he was named Fourth Class Correspondent of the Royal Dutch Institute and from that moment on his reputation was ensured. His landscape work was mainly of summer scenes of the countryside, which at that time were far more popular than the winter landscape works. However this latter type of landscape painting became increasingly more popular with the art buying public and Schelfhout began to exhibit some of his winter landscape paintings in the many exhibitions held in the towns and cities of the Netherlands as well as the Salons in Brussels and Antwerp. He completed a large variety of paintings over the next few years, winter and summer landscapes, beach scenes, moonlight subjects and a few paintings of animals. Records show that his annual painting output was about twenty, of which, over seventy per cent were winter or summer landscapes.
In 1833, Schelfhout decided that it was time to find new landscapes to paint and to travel again so as to increase his knowledge other artistic trends. He first visited France. Whilst staying in Paris he came into contact with the French Romantic landscape painters and it was after studying their works that his landscape paintings took on brighter colours in comparison to his previous sober palette. Two years later, he crossed the Channel to visit England where he was able to study the works of the great English landscape artist, John Constable. Art historians believe, that following these trips, Schelfhout’s palette became warmer and his choice of motifs became more varied. He taught at The Hague Academy and, as we saw in my last blog, one of his pupils was Johan Jongkind.
He became a member of the Pulchri Studio which was formed in 1847 and which was, and still is, an important art institution and art studio based in The Hague. The Pulchri Studio was established as there was a growing discontent among the young artists in The Hague about the apparently insufficient opportunities for training and development. The founders believed that the studio could provide an outlet for art intellectuals to model their work and to exchange thoughts and opinions. It was in this studio that Schelfhout would complete paintings from the sketches he had made earlier, during his art trips.
The height of his career came in the 1840‘s and 1850’s when his summer landscapes such as Landscape near Haarlem gained him international renown. However he will probably always best be remembered for his depiction of Dutch winter scenes with their perfect clarity of the ice and the delicate blue wintry tone. In his later years he became part of the Hague School, which was the name given to a group of artists who lived and worked in The Hague between 1860 and 1890. Their work was heavily influenced by the realist painters of the French Barbizon School. The painters of The Hague school generally made use of relatively somber colors, which is why the Hague School was sometimes referred to as the Gray School.
Schelfhout died on 23rd April, 1870. He was buried in the Eik en Duinen Cemetery in The Hague. His death made a deep impression on the art-loving city and numerous influential figures followed the funeral procession. His death marked the end of the era we now call Romanticism.
Although his portfolio of work included a wide range of themes, he became best known for his winter scenes. He was a Master of the winter landscape genre often embellished with skaters on the frozen waterways. It was these works of Andreas Schelfhout which continue to be his most sought after works. His skilfully and delicately executed winter landscapes gained him great success and enhanced his reputation both in his home country and abroad. He became known as the Claude Lorrain of the winter scene.
My featured work today is a winter landscape scene by Andreas Schelfhout entitled Winter Landscape with koek en zopie at night, which he completed in 1849. It combines the artist’s talents as a painter of winter landscapes and a painter of scenes bathed in moonlight. Koek en Zopie is the name given to small stands that sold hot food and drinks that kept the skaters warm. ‘Koek’ is the generic term for cakes and ‘zopie‘ is an old recipe for a warm mix of beer, rum and spices. In today’s painting we see the Koek en zopie stand on the bank, to the left of the frozen river, illuminated by some sort of brazier, which will, along with the alcoholic zopie, help to keep the skaters and the vendor warm.
The painting is part of the Rademakers Collection, which is a private compilation of romantic paintings from the 19th century owned by Jef Rademakers, a former owner of a television production company. In the eighties he was commissioned to make a series of documentaries about art in Dutch collections. These programs brought him into close contact with the art world: museums, dealers, auction houses and art historians. From this, he started to realise that besides being an admirer of art, one could also become the owner of art works from the past. In the 1990’s, Jef Rademakers decided to renounce the world of television and to hand over his production company. From that moment on he started a new life as a fulltime collector of art. Nowadays the Rademakers Collection consists of more than a hundred highly romantic paintings from mainly Dutch and Belgian masters of the 19th century. The art works in his collection are now often loaned out to foreign galleries and museums.