Barend Cornelis Koekkoek is considered the most accomplished and important of the nineteenth-century Dutch Romantic landscape painters. During his lifetime he came to be known as 'the prince of landscape painters'.
The eldest son of the marine painter Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek (1778-1851), in 1822 - at the age of nineteen - he was granted a scholarship by King Willem I to study at the Royal Academy of Arts in Antwerp, where he received lessons from Jan Willem Pieneman and Auguste Daiwaille. The subsequent landscapes he painted in the rural surroundings of Hilversum were favourably received and earned him a gold medal in 1829.
However, the Dutch countryside failed to keep Koekkoek's romantic soul satisfied. 'To be sure', he wrote in 1841, 'our fatherland boasts no rocks, waterfalls, high mountains or romantic valleys. Proud, sublime nature is not to be found in our land'. In the early 1830s therefore, he moved to Germany where he travelled along the rivers Ahr, Rhine and Ruhr, before finally settling in Kleve in 1834. The impressive river valleys and age-old woods surrounding Kleve had been attracting Dutch artists since the 17th Century and matched his romantic ideals perfectly. From that moment large, gnarled oak trees, winding paths and panoramic vistas filled his compositions with an artful blend of minute detail and atmospheric mood.
Under Koekkoek's leadership Kleve became the birthplace of a new and influential school of landscape painting, with many young artists coming to Kleve to be tutored by the revered master. Koekkoek founded his own academy at Kleve in 1841, instructing his students to follow the rules of landscape painting as described in his book Herinneringen en mededeelingen van eenen landschapschilder (Memoirs and reports of a landscape painter), published that same year. Among his students were talented landscapists including Klombeck, Kruseman, Kleijn and Marianus Adrianus Koekkoek, to name but a few.
The present work, showing a charming pastoral view, is a wonderful example of Koekkoek's unsurpassed virtuosity. The exquisite execution down to even the smallest details of flowers in the foreground and foliage on the trees combine to create an elegant scene of immense richness.