For Shipping Estuary: Hauling in the Boats at Day's End, Hermanus Koekkoek deployed an exceptional variety of sailing vessels, boats of real elegance as well as the simplest utility. From the distinctively squared form of the fishing pinck moored on the right, through the sleek, broad-beamed dogre (or dogger) that dominates the central group of boats, to the low-riding barge that moves away in the left background, Koekkoek saluted the diverse employments of Holland's coastal waterways. His is a traditional composition in which vast skies and an endless sea are held apart by only the merest slips of land across the distance; but Koekkoek readily acknowledged his own nineteenth-century world with the unmistakable addition of a steam packet (just to the right of center), one of the newly-introduced, small, fast boats that carried passengers and mail between coastal cities and across the Channel.
Koekkoek drew the rigging and planking of his various boats with equal attention to their technical details and to the subtle interrelations between colors man-made and those of nature. In Shipping Estuary: Hauling in the Boats at Day's End, lights and darks in the cloud-filled sky are set off by stronger light effects in the sails and gleaming hulls below, then absorbed into the reflections across a placid sea and a shadowed foreground. Koekkoek was a self-taught artist, but he had thoroughly absorbed the larger protocols of painting 'storms and calms' from the example of his great seventeenth-century predecessors, Jacob van Ruysdael, Jan van Goyen and Aelbert Cuyp, And in turn, he absorbed the lessons from other members of his artistic family, a small dynasty of marine and landscape painters from the nineteenth-century.
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