Skaters and figures on a frozen river, Haarlem in the distance signed 'Schelfhout' (lower left) oil on panel 21.3 x 29.1cm (8 3/8 x 11 7/16in).
Andreas Schelfhout was born in The Hague on 16 February 1787. He was the son of a gilder and frame maker. He trained as a house painter before being apprenticed to the studio of the theatre designer J.A.A.H Breckenheimer. There he learnt to paint city scenes and landscapes and rapidly gained success in Holland and Belgium. He began to specialise in seasonal landscapes and submitted many for exhibition in The Hague, Amsterdam and Brussels, offering summer scenes which were very highly regarded. Initially he was reluctant to exhibit his winter landscapes as the winter scenes were not yet a recognized form but considered as a companion piece to the summer scenes. Gradually, however they became so highly regarded that he started exhibit them on their own.
The present painting shows numerous villagers and several windmills in a typical Dutch winter scene. On the right hand-side many villagers gather around a stand, where they would be able to buy warming alcoholic beverages to keep out the cold and heighten their skating pleasure. More folk are walking towards the gathering, some of whom would have made the trek from the city of Haarlem which can be seen in the distance. The long shadows from a setting sun bath the composition in a warm light yet the viewer feels both the hardness of the ice and the cold of the winter.
This picture clearly illustrates Schelfhouts exceptional skill in being able to combine the ability to depict the fleeting changes in the natural landscape with a romantic vision of contemporary Dutch rural life with an intimacy that won him recognition throughout Europe. The main light source comes from behind the cottage. It is enlarged further by the contrast between the blue sky and the pink low horizon. This low horizon gives the artist an opportunity to depict a wide expanse of sky with clouds.
The influence Andreas Schelfhout was extensieve reaching beyond the borders of The Netherlands. Amongst his students were the pre-Impressionist Johan Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891) and the American Luminist Louis Remy Mignot (1831-1870) as well as Pieter Lodewijk Francisco Kluyver (1816-1900), lot ??? and Petrus Marius Brouwer (1819-1886) lot ???
The panel offered which has remained in the same private Dutch collection since approximately 1920 is a wonderful example of Schelfhouts mature technique. Most likely executed in the first half of the 1850s, in 1857 the artist was considered the best landscape painter by the Dutch art journal Kunstkronijk.