Barend Cornelis Koekkoek was born on the 11th of October 1803 in Middelburg as eldest son to the Marine painter Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek (1778-1851). At the early age of thirteen Koekkoek studied at the local academy and frequented evening classes by Abraham Kraystein (1793-1855). Having been awarded a scholarship by the Dutch Government, Koekkoek attended the academy in Amsterdam where he was taught by Jean Augustin Daiwaille (1786-1850) whom he befriended and was to work with for the rest of his career. On the 14th of August 1833 he married Daiwailles daughter Elise Therese (1814-1881).
Following his academy years Koekkoek undertook several journeys along the Rhine, the Ahr and the Ruhr from both the Netherlands and Cleves. These extensive travels through the rolling landscape provided the artist with a large number of motives and subjects. Collecting his broad scope of impressions in sketches and drawings, he would retreat to his studio to render his final version to canvas or panel.
In 1841 Koekkoek published an artists-manual for apprentices called Herinneringen en Mededeelingen eenen Landschapschilder. It takes the reader on one of his journeys along the Rhine and draws attention to the many specifics and characteristics of nature and the landscape. Herinneringen en Mededeelingen eenen Landschapschilder was intended as a manual for painting landscapes and contains many ideas about nature and art, as well as advice concerning possible subject-matter and painting techniques.
In order to attain the highest degree of perfection, Koekkoek advised his pupils to study after nature as much as possible. The warm glow of a sunset in summer or the cold silver light of early morning, the overwhelming character of an approaching storm or the fresh green of a forest drying after a mild rain, they all had to be studied and appreciated so that they may be properly reflected in paint. According to Koekkoek the effects of sunlight was 'de ziel van alles' ('the soul of everything'). The apprentice had to absorb this above all to enable him to record nature in the studio. Although Koekkoek stated that a study of nature was the only way to perfect artistic craftsmanship, he also directed his pupils to the Dutch 17th Century masters. After all, they too had chosen nature as a guide. But though indebted to the 17th Century masters, nature remained his main source of inspiration. He wrote:
'Leest de geschiedenis en ziet de werken der oude meesters; het was de natuur alleen, die zij, met haren verhevenste schoonheden hadden leeren kennen, tot eene hoogte, waartegen wij, (...) nog met verbazing opzien! (...) Alles wat gij naar de natuur maakt, is nieuw, dus origineel,want uw model blijft het altijd. Gij zijt volkomen onafhankelijk; behoeft geene penseelsbehandeling te volgen, want de natuur is niet geschilderd; volgt slechts de waarheid. Gij verrijkt Uwe portefeuille met een schat van schoonheden, die gij naderhand in het barre jaargetijde, in uwe kamer gezeten raadpleegt (...), om iets schoons te scheppen en eene nieuwe schilderij de wereld te laten zien'.
In the same year as the manual's publication, Koekkoek founded a drawing Academy, the Zeigen Collegium in Cleves, where he tutored many young artists, such as his brother M.A. Koekkoek, his brother-in-law A.J. Daiwaille, J.B. Klombeck, L. Hanedoes, J. Tavenraat, L.J. Kleijn and F.M. Kruseman.
The present lot is a fine example of the artist's unequalled ability to capture the essence of the natural world. The diversity of vegetation sets a framework for the play of light. The glow of the setting sun in the background to the right provides a warm element which counterbalances the almost tangible chill of a winter's day. An abundance of activity, from wood-gatherers in the foreground to the mother pushing her children along in a sledge on the ice in the distance, draws the spectator into an almost life-like environment.
We would like to thank Drs Guido de Werd for kindly confirming the authenticity of the present lot after first hand examination.