E xhibited internationally during the artist’s lifetime in Berlin, Venice and the Hague, Willem Bastiaan Tholen’s interior The Billiards Player is being seen in public for the first time since 1930. Consigned from an American private collection, the work is returning to the Netherlands for an exhibition at Sotheby’s Amsterdam, ahead of its inclusion in Sotheby’s 19th Century European Paintings sale in London on 9 July.
Seen from across the billiards table in the painting is Piet Meiners, fellow artist and friend of Tholen’s since their days studying together at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. The scene takes place in Ewijckshoeve, near Utrecht, an estate which went back to the late 17th century. At the time the present work was painted, Ewijckshoeve was rented by the family of painter Willem Witsen (1860-1923), a friend of both Tholen and Meiners, and all three artists painted there.
A pupil of Paul Gabriël in Brussels, Tholen established himself as a landscape artist with views of the Hague and Scheveningen. More than almost any other in his oeuvre, The Billiards Player reveals his talent at portraying the human figure. The painting bears comparison with Parisian Impressionism, and Gustave Caillebotte in particular, through the informal composition, arbitrary cropping and the beautifully observed play of light from outside. The sleeping dog lends the interior an intimate sense of calm, which contrasts with the children's games in the field outside.
WB Tholen’s The Billiards Player will be exhibited at Sotheby’s Amsterdam, Emmalaan 23, from 27 May to 12 June.