Bernardus Johannes Blommers (Dutch, 1845-1914)
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Bernardus Johannes Blommers (Dutch, 1845-1914)

The Happy Family

Bernardus Johannes Blommers (Dutch, 1845-1914)
The Happy Family
signed 'Blommers' (lower right)
oil on canvas
30 x 50 in. (76.2 x 127 cm.)
Mr. and Mrs. Alanson Brown, St. Louis, Missouri, 1913.
Eugene C. Tittmann and Vesta Brown Tittmann, St. Louis, Missouri, 1970.
St. Louis, City Art Museum of St. Louis, A Collection of Works Owned in St. Louis and Lent to the Museum, 1913 (as On the Seashore).
St. Louis, Saint Louis Art Museum, The 19th Century: Changing Styles/Changing Attitudes, 16 August - 21 October 1973.
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Lot Essay

Clearly painted at the height of his career, The Happy Family can be regarded as one of the outstanding masterpieces of Bernardus Blommers' oeuvre. His reputation as a painter of dune scenes and seascapes in which figures played a leading role rests on works of this superior caliber. The painting displays the characteristic anecdotal qualities for which his work is so highly appreciated. The subject-matter, a beautifully balanced composition, the colors, tones and its excellent condition make its appearance on the art market a rare event.

Bernard Blommers was the son of a well respected printer and was originally trained as a lithographer. But his interests lay elsewhere and he actively pursued a career as an artist and enrolled in the Academy of The Hague.

While painting on the beach of Scheveningen, Blommers befriended fellow artist Josef Israels. Just like Israels, Blommers frequently went to the beach to find inspiration. Although they shared a fascination for the life of the Dutch fishing people and made it the central theme of their respective oeuvres, both artists had a totally different approach towards their subject matter. Israels had a social-realistic focus and did not hesitate to depict the hardship often experienced by the impoverished fisher-folk. Blommers' representations were more anecdotal. This idyllic scene is characteristic of his conception of traditional fisher family life. The Happy Family depicts a languid evening on the beach, a father in admiration of his small daughter as she plays in the sand. The mother is knitting, perhaps sometimes stealing a glance at the other children that are playing in the surf in the background. To Blommers, children represented happiness and innocence, and he often captured children's play in his pictures. He himself once said that although he saw children by the sea almost everyday, they offered him something new every time. ('Ja, dat schilder ik graag, zulke kinderen aan zee. Ik zie ze bijna iedere dag zoo, en toch altijd weer is 't nieuw, moet ik er even bij stilstaan.' (T. de Liefde-van Brakel, B. J. Blommers (1845-1915), Katwijk, 1993, p. 39).

This carefree character of Blommers' work made him one of the most sought-after and renowned painters of the Hague School. His work and that of his peers was widely collected, not only in The Netherlands but also in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Dutch dealers and Hague School artists eagerly participated in the major art exhibitions that were organized in these countries and many of Blommers' works found their way into major international collections. So formidable was his artistic reputation that when the artist and his wife visited the United States in 1904 he was received with all honors by President Theodore Roosevelt.

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