Christie’s charges a premium to the buyer on the Hammer Price of each lot sold at the following rates: 29.75% of the Hammer Price of each lot up to and including €20,000, plus 23.8% of the Hammer Price between €20,001 and €800.000, plus 14.28% of any amount in excess of €800.000. Buyer’s premium is calculated on the basis of each lot individually.
A Romantic Affair... by Jop Ubbens
The Dutch Romantic painters are very dear to me. When, in 1986, Christies asked me to set up the Amsterdam 19th Century art department, I brought little more than enthusiasm to the trade. Having specialised in Old Masters before, I ploughed through a pile of literature, visited as much exhibitions as daily work allowed and embarrassed quite a few eminent dealers with questions they must have thought pretty obvious.
It did not take long, however, before I started to grasp the unique qualities of Barend Cornelis Koekkoek, Schelfhout and Springer. Their virtuoso compositions, delicate staffaging and subtle but deliberate use of light still captivate me today 22 years after I first entered the Second Golden Age of painting. The Dutch entrepreneur that brought together this catalogue had an even longer affair with the romantics: he acquired his first painting in the late forties and added the last just before the turn of the millennium.
The result of his passion is the most extensive private collection of Dutch Romantics our specialists ever encountered. In fact I dare every museum to present an overview of the 1820-1880 period as rich and broad as to be seen on Christies viewing days. From 14-17 November, our doors give entrance to 450 works by more than 150 artists: landscapes, city views, marines, interiors, still lifes, tavern scenes, flowers, poultry and much more executed on canvas, panel and paper.
I would strongly advise both collectors and scholars to take good notice; another chance to compare so many romantic works at first hand is unlikely to arise. And to bidders, the fact will not be lost that every single lot in this catalogue comes fresh to the market. With prices ranging from 1,000 to 300,000, and artists from Akkersdijk to Zaalberg, it is virtually impossible not to find that long sought addition to your collection. And for those contemplating their first purchase, this is the perfect opportunity to fall in love. Wander around our rooms, see mothers learn their ducklings swim, learn what a real Dutch winter looks like, join the travellers in a sun lit forest and start a lifelong Romantic Affair.
Chairman Christie's Amsterdam
From coloured drawing to watercolour, by Marius van Dam
This large collection has a special subdivision in the form of a group of romantic school drawings and watercolours. These works on paper were made by artists who are often also represented by paintings in the collection.
Collecting works on paper was probably not an end in itself for the collector. When the opportunity occurred he bought one example of a work by an artist who fitted into the collection, no matter whether this was a work on paper or an oil painting. The composition and appearance of the subject where of main interest. So the collector limited himself almost without exception to independent drawings, often coloured works on paper, which he could see as a painting.
Collectors of drawings often have limited themselves to independent drawings. In 1929, for example, the collection of Montauban van Swijndregt was donated to the Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam comprising in particular finished works on paper from the period 1750-1850.
A sketch is part of a process in which the painter organizes his thoughts to find a correct solution to a compositional problem. The drawings now for sale represent the culmination of this working process of the artist. The finished drawings are the end product the artist envisaged and therefore can function as a painting.
Nevertheless drawings were most of the time regarded as study-material only. These studies from the artists port-folio were collectables during the lifetime of the artist. Gerard de Lairesse already stated in the beginning of the eighteenth century that by selling coloured study-drawings an artist could earn easy money. But in his opinion drawings were inferior in comparison to paintings.
The artist J.A. Knip (1777-1847) made a lot of drawings in Italy. These drawings were only intended for his workshop portfolio. This is evident from the contempt with which he wrote about his works on paper. In Knip's opinion, true works of art had to be executed in oils on canvas or panel. In his own words he only made watercolours and gouaches out of necessity because they earned him money faster. The brush drawings which are highly sought after today and regarded as works of art in their own right, were chiefly study sheets that Knip, and his painting children, used for what was in their eyes 'real work': painting in oils.
In the nineteenth century the appreciation for drawings as independent works of art increases. An artist like Herman ten Kate (1822-1891) executed popular themes for clients both in oil and watercolour. His brother Mari ten Kate (1831-1910) produced as easy a colourful oil with playing children as a watercolour with the same subject.
The fame of the artist Andreas Schelfhout (1787-1870) rested partially on his watercolours and drawings. He could as no other produce convincing effects with only a few brushstrokes. Such small watercolours where known as "Schelfhoutjes" (small Schelfhouts). Schelfhout produced these watercolours with the greatest ease. During tea-time he made some watercolours and it is recorded that on a visit in Amsterdam he used the hotel water-jug to work on another watercolour.
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century a drawing we now define as watercolour was called "coloured drawing" by both artist and collector. These drawings in chalk, pencil or even ink were coloured partially or as a whole with water or body-colour. See for example the drawing Abraham Teerlink (1776-1857) made of iceskating people (lot 21).
In England the term watercolour was already full in use since 1804 when the English Watercolour Society was established. The appearance of this term however had not reached the mainland of Europe yet. In Belgium in 1855, partly due to the Dutch artist Willem Roelofs, the Société des Aquarellistes Belge was established. Only as late as 1876 a similar society was formed in The Netherlands: de "Hollandsche Teeken Maatschappij" (Dutch drawing society). This society aimed to appreciate the watercolour as an independent work of art. Among the founders were David Bles (1821-1899), Johannes Bosboom (1817-1891), The Maris brothers, Anton Mauve (1838-1888) and Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915). The watercolours by the Hague School painters who joined this "Hollandsche Teeken Maatschappij" had a completely different appearance than the coloured drawings made in the beginning of the century. The making of these watercolours was fundamentally different.
The watercolour was to be made expressively vivid and rapid without preliminary studies. Sometimes even traces of under-drawings are absent in watercolours by artists such as Anton Mauve (1838-1888), Jozef Israels (1824-1911), Charles Rochussen (1814-1894) and Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch (1824-1903). The speed and liveliness harvest much admiration.
These watercolours were popular collectibles. Where in the middle of the century a collector returned such a watercolour by Weissenbruch to the artist because he preferred an independent coloured drawing, the watercolour now had his own position. The conservative critic J.A. Alberdink Thijm still put it negative: IThe painters avoid the word drawing, they prefer to speak of watercolours, probably because they feel that sometimes the drawing is far to seek'.
The watercolours now offered for sale show the transition from coloured drawing to watercolour. These are the forerunners of the Hague School watercolours. This collection of watercolours gives us the opportunity to have a better look at drawings in this period of changing status for coloured works on paper.
Collectors of drawings today are aware of the harmful influence of light on paper. Therefore in print rooms of museums drawings are kept in boxes. They are only on show in darkened exhibition rooms. The private collector can keep his drawings in boxes or as the eighteenth century collector, in an album or portfolio, and occasionally show his treasures. But every house has dark corners where these beautiful gems can be hung and cherished.
Drs Marius van Dam is the author of Miscellanea Delineata Dutch drawings 1780-1860 from the Ploos van Amstel Knoef collection, (Rotterdam, 2007).