Schelfhout is justly regarded as one of the major Dutch landscape artists of the nineteenth Century. Best known for his winter scenes, for which he was renowned in his lifetime, few of his drawings have survived. Many were included in an album, now in the Teylers Museum, Haarlem (see Literature). Some drawings were fully signed and dated, sometimes with watercolour, and were intended to be sold to collectors. Others were plein air sketches, often preparatory for his pictures. In the Amsterdam exhibition catalogue of 1997-8 (loc.cit.), Robert-Jan te Rijdt describes the present drawing as: 'An exceptionally large and fine example of just such a rough sketch by Schelfhout is the Panoramic view of Haarlem and the Ruin of Brederode. Not surprisingly, the artist also did a painted version of this grand composition. That work is dated 1840, and judging by the mature style, this drawing must also have been done then, or possibly the year before. We know for certain that the drawing was used in the execution of the painting. In transferring the landscape onto the much larger panel, Schelfhout drew a quadrature net in thin pencil over the major portions of the picture. Once the representation had been divided up into small segments, it was much easier to copy it onto the large panel, which was provided with a proportionally larger quadrature net.' (see fig. 1).
Schelfhout worked in his native The Hague throughout his entire life. Besides his famous ice scenes, he would look for exciting views taken from elevations in the landscape, often following his 17th Century predecessors in their search for such vantage points, following the example of Jan van Goyen, Jacob van Ruisdael and Philips Koninck. In pursuit of such views he travelled along the Rhine to Germany, and to Belgium. Jacob van Ruisdael's famous views of Haarlem seen from the dunes were possibly the model for a number of Schelfhout's similar views. His earliest painted view of Haarlem, seen from 'Kraantje Lek', is dated 1832 (W. Laanstra, Andreas Schelfhout 1787-1870, Amsterdam, 1995, p. 163, no. Z1832-1, private Collection, Holland).
The present drawing was made looking towards Haarlem from the dunes just North of Santpoort, near the country estate Duin en Berg. It includes the ruins of Castle Brederode, an important site in the Middle Ages, and an favored site of his romantic contemporaries. Indeed, Schelhout gave the Castle pride of place in his view of Haarlem dated 1845 (Laanstra, op.cit., p. 170, no. 1845-2). A drawing in the Teylers Museum, Haarlem, appears to be the study for Schelfhout's comparable view in pastel dated 1851 (Laanstra, op.cit., pp. 38 and 29, figs. 28 and 5 respectively)