The art-critic Johan Gram wrote the following on the work of the 19th century landscape painter Willem Roelofs in 1881: "Roelofs is de schilder van die sappige weiden, waaruit de welgedane runderen slechts ten halven lijve opduiken. Warme zomerdagen aan de plassen, met wuivende biezen en eenden kooien, waarboven zich een broeiende, bewolkte lucht welft, schildert hij met zijn breed penseel zoo verrukkelijk, dat ge uw land meer gaat liefhebben om al dat eenvoudige natuurschoon, dat ge tevoren zoo niet wist te schatten" (in: Onze Schilders in Pulchri Studio, Rotterdam 1881, p. 128).
Presumably the commissioner shared the opinion mentioned above when he asked Roelofs to paint the present lot in 1867 before he left for Suriname. As stated in the exhibition catalogue of 1907 of Pulchri Studio in The Hague, the present lot was commissioned as a souvenir for a Dutchman living in tropical Suriname, reminding him visually of the pleasures of his native country. As is written on the red sledge in the middle of the composition, Roelofs depicts a frozen river Maas with Rotterdam in the distance. Although the present lot is a very unusual subject in the oeuvre of Willem Roelofs - and may be his only winter scene - it can be considered as one of his most important pictures as it has the splendid atmosphere his works are admired for applied to a rare subject.
Willem Roelofs was born in Amsterdam on 10 March 1822 and lived in Utrecht and Den Haag up to 1847. In this year he decided to move to Brussels, where he liked the artistic environment. He moved back to The Hague in 1887. Roelofs is one of the most important forefathers of The Hague School and is well known for his very typical Dutch polder landscapes particularly with cows along the waterfront, with which he gained international recognition. His painterly style became influenced by the Belgian and French landscape painters he met in Brussels. Shortly after Roelofs had arrived in Brussels he visited Barbizon and Fontainebleau at the age of 29, where he saw the works of amongst others Troyon, Rousseau, Daubigny and Millet - the painters of the 'paysage intime' - and he became strongly influenced by their vision of nature and regeneration of art. Influenced by the School of Barbizon his main interest became the depiction of a certain atmosphere, for which he preferred the typical grey landscapes he saw in Holland. Although he traveled a lot, he kept visiting Holland a few times a year in order to be inspired by the environment of Abcoude, Noorden, Kortenhoef, Loosdrecht, Dordrecht and Drenthe.
Another element adding to the uniqueness of the present lot within the oeuvre of the artist is the visible influence of the Dutch impressionist landscape painter Johan Bartold Jongkind. Like Roelofs, Jongkind left Holland, moving to Paris in 1845, where he became strongly influenced by the painters of the Barbizon School. Between 1855 and 1860 Jongkind lived in Rotterdam, where he produced various pictures of this city. It is very possible that Roelofs had seen Jongkinds pictures of Rotterdam at exhibitions and in private collections in the Netherlands, which clearly influenced his style and subject matter.