"La nature est si varie pourqoui voulour la rendre plus belle en voulant faire du romantique".
Throughout his career Barend Cornelis Koekkoek preached the absolute necessity for an artist to stay truthful to nature: his conception of nature as the only painting worthy of a serious artist is at the very core of both his academic teaching and his theoretical reflections on landscape painting, which he published in his Herinneringen en mededeelingen van eenen landschapsschilder (Thoughts and recollections of a landscape artist) in 1841. This publication described a journey along the Rhine, drawing the reader's attention to the details of the landscape and how to capture nature. In the same year Koekkoek founded a drawing academy in Cleve where he taught many young artists the practical implications of the depiction of landscapes.
Koekkoek considered it of the greatest importance for any artist to work outdoors, making meticulous studies in order to depict True Nature, which he saw as the perfect painting. Koekkoek undertook several journeys along the Rhine, the Ahr and the Ruhr from the Netherlands and from Cleve where he settled in 1834.
In his travel account there are numerous details of the trips that he and his artist friends made: "Attired in dustcoat, with portfolio and paintbox on our backs, painting chair and folding easel together in a linen bag or sheath on the left-hand side [...] a belt or band around our waists, on which a tobacco pouch and a pipe hung, and a long stick with a sharp point, [...] we left our lodgings" (Herinneringen, 1841, p. 27-28).
In 1833 Koekkoek had married the artist Elise Therese Daiwaille (1814-1881). Elise was a pupil of her father Jean Augustin Daiwaille (1786-1850), a former director of the Royal Academy of Amsterdam where the young Barend Cornelis became acquainted with this superb portrait painter. No doubt Koekkoek was influenced by the fine techniques of portaiture that Daiwaille displayed and the present work shows that Koekkoek had studied his sitter as well as he would study his landscapes, portraying the lady at peace in the surrounding garden. It has been suggested that the sitter was a relative of the artist: "Endlich vor 35 Jahren bot sich mir in Koln die so lang gesuchte Gelegenheit, meinen Wunsch zu erfullen. Das beigefugte Foto zeigt den Grossen Landschafter zugleich als Portrtisten. Wie mir der damalige Besitzer des Bildes sagte, sei er selber ein Verwandter der Grossen klever Koekkoek-Familie. Die werbliche Figur sei eine nhe Verwandtes des Meisters, die er in einem parkartigen Garten gemalt habe" (F. Gorissen, op. cit., P/2).
B.C. Koekkoek portraits are incredibly rare. The Haus Koekkoek in Cleve owns an early portrait of his mother, painted in 1827 and some further self-portraits or drawings of fellow artists have been recorded. The present portrait, painted in 1846, shows Koekkoek's exquisite feeling for colour and depth that is also displayed in the series of nine Luxembourg landscapes the artist executed for Willem II circa 1846-1848. With eleven paintings by Koekkoek in the King's collection, he was by far the best featured contemporary artist.
Dr Guido de Werd has kindly confirmed the authenticity of this work.