Barend Cornelis was born on the 11th of October 1803 in Middelburg as the eldest of four children. His father and first teacher was the river- and seascape painter Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek (1778-1851). Barend Cornelis, together with his three brothers, received their first drawing lessons in their father's workshop. At the age of thirteen Koekkoek joined the local academy and attended the evening classes of Abraham Kraystein (1793-1855). A scholarship awarded by the Dutch Government made it possible for Koekkoek in 1822 to attend the Royal Academy of Arts in Amsterdam, where he became a pupil of Jean Augustin Daiwaille (1786-1850) as well as of Jan Willem Pieneman (1779-1853). Barend Cornelis would work with Dawaille for the rest of his career and, in 1833, married his daughter Elise Therese. In 1823 Koekkoek received his 'Diploma der Eerste Klasse' of the Royal Academy and a year after this he received an honoury mention in the yearly review of the Academy.
The present painting, dated 1851, demonstrates the skilled manner in which various motives are combined to form a fantasized whole. As said, in the 1840's Koekkoek had reached the height of his artistic mastership. In this period, Koekkoek was mostly recognized as an important artist because of the prizes he won, the most of which from 1839 to 1855. He was, for example, awarded a Gold Medal at the Salon in Paris in 1840 for a landscape painted for the Prince of Orange, who later became King Willem II of the Netherlands. On seeing this painting in The Hague, the successor to the Russian throne, the later Tsar Alexander II ordered a pendant of the work. In the previous year he had been rewarded Gold Medals in both Brussels and The Hague. In 1843 Koekkoek received his second Gold Medal at the Paris Salon, confirming his status as the leading Romantic landscape painter of his time. It was also the year in which he moved into his studio "Belvedere" which was erected on the fundaments of an old city tower in Cleves and gave Koekkoek wonderful views of the town. In 1855 he was again awarded a Golden Medal at the Salon in Paris.
On a warm summer evening peasants with their families are bringing home two heavy loaded hay wagons from the riparian zones of the Rhine a hill upwards. In the background a third haywain is being loaded. At the horizon an impressive landscape unrolls with an imposing river with an isle and a cloister in the middle. In the far distance a mountain chain can be seen. Koekkoek describes on the label on the reverse of the present work, the depicted view as 'a landscape in the character of the Rhine'. It shows a very realistic view of the Rhine landscape to the South of Bonn. One of the most well-known parts of the Rhine-landscape, between Godesberg and Rolandseck. The isle is Nonnenwerth with a Benedictine monastery, dating already from the 13th century and rebuilt around 1775. Koekkoek shows the baroque buildings with the small octagonal ridge turret with a curved spire between the treetops. The mountain chain is that of the Siebengebirge; in the middle the rocky Drachenfels with on the top the Drachenburg – a landmark for many romantic painters. From a valley between the mountains swafts of mist are driving, a sign summer has nearly passed. The foreground with the wide riparian zones is invented by Koekkoek. In reality there a steep hill, the so-called Rolandsbogen.
Koekkoek had used the sketches for his rendering of the Rhein with Nonnenwerth and the Siebengebirge in this painting already two years earlier for the 1849- Rhine landscape with an approaching thunderstorm (see: Gorissen, no. 49/40). In his book Herinneringen en Mededeelingen van eenen Landschapsschilder he describes the Siebengebirge, the Dachenfels and Nonnenwerth (pp. 106-136). Koekkoek often visited this place which he admired very much. In his book he mentions the romantic story of the knights of the Drachenburg, a famous Rhine-saga.
We kindly thank Drs. Guido de Werd for his help in cataloguing the present lot. The painting will be included in Drs. Guido de Werd's forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné as: no. 51/43.