The Koekkoek family is widely recognized as the most influential artistic dynasty of the Dutch Romantic era. Founding father Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek (1778-1851), whose marine paintings were already highly acclaimed in his day, had four sons who all dedicated themselves to painting. The most well known member is Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (1803-1862) whose magnificent paintings attracted illustrious patrons such as King Willem II of the Netherlands, King Friedrich-Wilhelm IV of Prussia and Czar Alexander II, which earned him the title of 'Prince of landscape painters'. Although they were slightly less commercially successful, his brothers, Marinus Adrianus Koekkoek (1807-1868), Johannes (1811-1831) and Hermanus Koekkoek (1815-1882) were all truly accomplished artists. Johannes, whose style and pallet most emulates his fathers, unfortunately died young and his work is therefore quite rare. Like his father, Hermanus Koekkoek was celebrated primarily for his seascapes and painted with a similar flair although, contrary to his father, he made the tranquil river landscapes and seascapes into his speciality.
Like his elder brother, the artist of the present lot, Marinus Adrianus Koekkoek, specialized in the Romantic landscape. This choice of subject matter is highly attributable to the direct influence of Barend Cornelis, who taught his younger brother in Cleves from 1837 until 1839.
In the present painting, both his artistic as well as the geographical influences of the widespread forest landscape around Cleves are evident. The well balanced composition is carefully constructed and shows all the skill and artistic prowess of one of the celebrated members of this Dutch Romantic artist's family. The well placed modest figures on the country path, dwarfed by the large and overwhelming trees and expansive forest landscape best illustrate the Dutch interpretation of the contemporary sensibility of the dominance of nature over man, which lies at the basis of the Romantic Movement throughout Europe.