Jacob Cats (1741-1799)
Jacob Cats was the son of Johannes, a Dutch book-dealer who was living at Altona in Germany at the time of his son's birth, but moved back to his native Amsterdam when the boy was still an infant. The young Jacob first trained with his father as a bookbinder, but exhibited a greater talent for painting and so joined the workshop of the wallpaper painter Jan Hendrik Troost van Groenendoelen (circa 1722-1794), before setting up a wallpaper factory of his own with the financial support of his friends. His heart, however, lay with drawing and he became renowned as an accomplished draughtsman of pastoral scenes, some recording the bucolic peace of Dutch summer landscapes and others continuing the popular tradition of spirited winter scenes.
Among the friends who helped Cats to establish his factory was the banker Johann Goll van Franckenstein the Elder (1722-1785), who would exert another kind of influence over the young artist. Goll van Franckenstein had adopted a numbering system for the drawings in his art collection, recorded in Lugt's Marques de Collections as L. 2987, and his precise notations on the verso inspired Cats to develop a very similar system. In contrast to Goll van Franckenstein, Cats was not numbering a collection of drawings that he owned, but rather establishing a way to order his own by date of execution. Jane Shoaf Turner and Leslie Schwartz have compiled lists of Cats's numbered drawings, on which the numbers are often accompanied by dates or inscriptions. Most of the numbered drawings are in pen, ink and wash rather than in finished watercolour, and Jane Turner has identified several instances where compositions from numbered drawings exist in second, more highly finished versions. This suggests that the system was devised to lend order to a series of model or pattern books from which Cats's friends and patrons could choose designs to be worked up into more polished watercolours.
For further information on Cats and his inscriptions, see J. Shoaf Turner, 'Jacob Cats and the identification of a "Pseudo-Goll van Franckenstein" numbering system', Master Drawings, XXVIII, 1990, no. 3, pp. 323-31 and L.A. Schwartz, 'The "Thoughts" ("Gedagten") of Jacob Cats', Delineavit et Sculpsit, XXXI, December, 2007, pp. 57-77.
A winter landscape with two peasants pushing a sledge laden with logs, and a swineherd to the left