Once Barend Cornelis Koekkoek had completed his studies at the Koninklijke Akademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam around 1825 he moves to the town of Hilversum. Located just outside Amsterdam, Hilversum was home to a group of landscape artists including Jan Hendrik Bodeman (1773-1842), Pieter Gerardus van Os (1776-1839) and Jan van Ravenswaay (1789-1869). The town was conveniently located in a hilly environment which offered woods, heath land and lakes as potential subject matter. Once Koekkoek arrived there he found a younger generation of artists, amongst them Jacob Theodor Abels (1803-1866) and Albertus Verhoesen (1806-1881). In 1824 a Drawing Academy drawing was founded in Hilversum where Koekkoek seems to have been teaching, of which a local vicar's daughter could recall:
'...Er was toen te Hilversum een soort schilder-academie. De vee- en landschapschilders Van Os, Van Ravenswaay, later Koekkoek en anderen, hadden er een school waar jonge lieden onder hun leiding tot artisten werden gevormd. De allerliefste landelijke omgeving vol afwisseling van bouwgrond, heide bosch en water, waarin Hilversum en 's Graveland aaneen sloten, was bizonder geschikt voor hun studie. Zij droegen allen platte fluwelen mutsen en korte jasjes...' (see: K. Hooijer-Bruins, Domineesdochter in 's Graveland - Domineesvrouw in Zaltbommel, Zaltbommel, 1981, p. 48).
In the two years that Koekkoek spent in Hilversum he became an independent landscape painter rather than one that works according to the principles taught at art academies at the time. He would set out into nature with his sketchbooks, producing many drawings and from 1826 onwards he would create landscapes in oil which he had conceived entirely himself. In 1827, the year in which the present lot was painted, Koekoek travelled to Belgium and Germany together with his friend and apprentice Willem Bodeman (1806-1880).
The present winter landscape from this period is of exceptionally high quality considering Koekkoek was twenty-four years old at the time. An enormous number of figures are depicted giving the painting an almost festive atmosphere. Beyond the large 'koek en zopie' and elevated windmill, a group of skaters appear to be holding a race, encouraged by enthusiastic spectators. Lovely colour accents are applied throughout the composition, notably the red sleeves of the boy binding on his skates in the lower right corner and the fresh green of the sledge in the centre of the painting. The sun is just starting to set on the left of the painting turning the sky into a subtle golden colour.
A drawing with a very similar composition in summer is part of the Jean de Grez Collection kept in the Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten in Brussels (fig. 1).
The authenticity of the present lot has kindly been confirmed by Drs Guido de Werd, director of Haus Koekkoek, Cleves, after firsthand examination.