Winter signed and dated 'B.C.Koekkoek ft/1846' (lower right), with collectors seal on the reverse oil on panel 69 x 90cm (27 3/16 x 35 7/16in).
LITERATURE: Netherlands Institute for Art History: Connaisseur vol. 155 nr. 6, 23 January 1964.
PROVENANCE: Purchased from Henry Spencer, (for £2900) before 1952 by the grandfather of the vendor; thence by direct descent.
Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (1803-1862) was the most celebrated artist of his generation and regarded as the founding father of Dutch romantic landscape painting. During his lifetime he was known as the 'Prince of Landscape Painting' and his reputation remains unchallenged to this day.
B. C. Koekkoek was the eldest son of the renowned marine painter Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek (1778-1851), from whom he received his earliest tuition. In 1822, at the age of 19 he was granted a scholarship by King Willem I of the Netherlands which enabled him to study at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in Amsterdam. He studied there for four years under Jan Willem Pieneman and the landscape painter Jean August Daiwaille, whose sister Koekkoek married in 1833. Even in these formative years, it was evident that Koekkoek's strength lay within this genre. Two years spent in the rural surroundings of Hilversum, in the company of a group of cattle and landscape painters strengthened this passion. His unique talent did not go unnoticed, with one of his summer landscapes awarded a gold medal by the Amsterdam society, Felix Meritis in 1829.
The Dutch countryside failed to keep Koekkoek's romantic soul satisfied. He stated that his Fatherland boasted no rocks, waterfalls, mountains or romantic valleys and that proud, sublime Nature was not to be found in The Netherlands. As a result the artist moved to the old Ducal capital of Cleves, Germany in 1834, where the impressive river valleys, rock formations and ancient woods resonated with his romantic ideals perfectly. Under his leadership Cleves became the breeding ground for a new and influential school of landscape painting. Koekkoek founded his own academy there in 1841, where a number of young artists such as Johann Bernard Klombeck, Frederik Marinus Kruseman and Lodewijk Johannes Kleijn came to be tutored by the revered master. It was also in the same year that he published his seminal text Herinneringen en Mededeelingen van eenen Landschapsschilder (Recollections and Communications of a Landscape Painter).
The late 1840s and early 1850s are generally regarded as the most important of Koekkoek's oeuvre. His landscapes of this period are key to the development of Cleves Romanticism which can be summed up as a fusion of realism and a tendency to idealise Nature with remarkable detail. During this period he received international acclaim and was awarded numerous prizes. Stylistically he sought to intensify his earlier forms by refining details, whilst also strengthening composition; this can be illustrated in his sweeping panoramic views of this period, where he selected a vantage point from which the viewer is drawn into highly detailed receeding landscape.
Winter, dated 1846, shows a breathtaking view of a wintry river valley and is a wonderful example of Koekkoek's virtuosity. It contains all the key elements for which he is best known. The tiny figures clearly emphasise the majesty of the landscape while a line of ancient oak trees along the path symbolize the divine power of creation. The view of the frozen river on the right gives way to a dimly lit view of hills in the far distance strengthening the concept of the vastness of the landscape. According to Mr Guido de Werd of the Stadtisches Museum Haus Koekkoek, the work most likely depicts a location between Cleves and Xanten, a location often used by the artist.
Mr. Guido de Werd has kindly confirmed the authenticity of this lot after first hand inspection. This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonnée of BC Koekkoek, being prepared by Mr. de Werd (cat. No. BCK 46/69)