PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
W. Bulmer Long;
Anonymous sale ('The Property of a Lady'), London, Christie's, 24 November 1967, lot 81, for 18,000 guineas to the Brod Gallery;
With Brod Gallery, London, March 1968;
With Alexander Gallery, ?Bristol (their label affixed to the reverse);
Anonymous sale ('The Property of a Gentleman'), London, Christie's, 12 December 1980, lot 36 (as Hendrick Avercamp), for £24,000.
Hendrick Avercamp was the first artist in the northern Netherlands to paint winter landscapes, and he did so all his life. In the eastern Netherlands, where Avercamp lived in Kampen at the edge of the Zuider Zee, the winters of the early 17th century were particularly harsh and long, and the canals and rivers frozen for several weeks at a time, so his winter scenes were drawn from first-hand experience. Avercamp painted in a style which drew inspiration from earlier drawings and prints produced by the Flemish landscape painters such as Hans Bol and David Vinckboons, who had immigrated to Amsterdam, but which emphasised daily life and anecdotal detail in a way quite new to Dutch landscape painting. That he did so as a deaf-mute (he was commonly known by his nickname 'de Stom' or 'the mute') is not the least remarkable aspect of his achievements as a painter.
This small panel is probably an early work by Avercamp, and may date from around 1608-1610. The very high horizon line and the use of the church, trees and houses to frame the composition recall earlier Flemish models, and can be found in other works of this date, including the dated panel of 1608 in Bergen, Billedgalleri1 and the famous large panel of c.1609 now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.2 The church that is depicted in this painting also appears on the left hand side of the Amsterdam painting, where it acts as a similar coulisse. Unlike his later works, where the horizon line is much lower and in which Avercamp seems to have concentrated more upon the effects of wintry atmosphere, here he shows a stronger interest in the teeming activity on the frozen canal. As no dated painting by Avercamp between 1609 and 1620 is known, dating his works is by no means easy, but the costume worn by the fashionable figures disporting in the present panel would also seem to support an early date. Like Pieter Bruegel before him, Avercamp was a sharp observer of people, capturing their poses and attitudes, and very often re-using them in more than one painting. Thus, for example, the skating couple in the lower right foreground of this painting, may also be found in close variations in other pictures, such as that in Amsterdam or the larger panel in Schwerin, Gemäldegalerie,3 in which a young fashionably dressed couple with their backs turned to us very similar to those in the centre of this painting also recur. Also characteristic of Avercamp are the pentiments in the form of underdrawing made visible by the translucency of the paint layers. This is especially visible in the lower right hand corner, where the underdrawing for a young woman, seen from behind with her hands at her sides, is clearly visible (fig. 1).
1. Inv. 1840. Panel, 33 by 55.5 cm.. Reproduced in the exhibition catalogue, Frozen Silence. Hendrick Avercamp 1585-1634 and Barent Avercamp 1612-1679, Amsterdam, K. & V. Waterman, 1982, no. 1.
2. Inv. A1718. Panel, 77.5 by 132 cm.. For which see, for example, Masters of 17th Century Dutch landscape painting, exhibition catalogue, Amsterdam, Boston and Philadelphia, 1987, no. 5.
3. E. Plietzsch, Holländische und Flämische maler des XVII. Jahrhunderts, Darmstadt 1960, p. 87, fig. 145.
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