Charles Leickert. Part 3 – the middle and latter years.

View on the Ij with Amsterdam in the Background by Charles Leickert (1848)

…………………..In hindsight, Leickert’s decision to move away from The Hague in 1848 and base himself in Amsterdam was probably a brave decision but it paid off as the next twenty years are looked upon as his best period. The finely drawn details in his works and his use of the chiaroscuro technique was looked upon by the critics as masterful. One of the first paintings he did after his move to Amsterdam was View on the Ij with Amsterdam in the Background. The setting is a view from the grounds around the tollgate on the north shore of the IJmuiden, a body of water, formerly a bay, in the Dutch province of North Holland. It was a favourite place of artists, and the Amsterdam public were always willing to buy such depictions.

Winter op het IJ voor Amsterdam by Charles Leickert (1849)

Many artists depicted similar scenes and in fact Leickert completed several versions of this painting, including one with the same view but in a winter setting, entitled Winter op het IJ voor Amsterdam (Amsterdam in the Winter with the Setting Sun), which can be seen at the Rijksmuseum. It was painted from the same viewpoint at slightly different stages of sunset. Both paintings depict the same barn, house, and figure group to the left-hand side. However, the most notable difference is that the Rijksmuseum painting is set during winter and it depicts people skating on the frozen river. These two works are masterpieces in the way they depict a highly detailed analysis of light and colour, and the atmospheric fluctuations between the seasons and times of day. These were aspects of overriding importance to Leickert. Leickert left his mentor Schelfhout when he moved from The Hague to Amsterdam and began to be “his own man” as far as his artwork was concerned. An art critic at the 1850 Rotterdam exhibition which included Leickert’s winter variation of the painting commented on the work and Leickert’s newly-found independence:

“…Leickert has long managed to situate himself outside the school of Schelfhout – that is, to learn to observe with his own eyes. His view of Amsterdam in the Winter with the Setting Sun is one of those paintings at which one must gaze for a long time to recover, as it were all that is surprising and alluring about a sunset in December. The sky has a particularly divine effect, being harmoniously rendered and incontrovertibly one of the most handsome of the Exhibition…”

The “divine effect” mentioned by the critic alludes to the strong Romantic evening light depicted in the painting. In the work look how Leickert has the setting sun lighting up and colouring the sky in red, orange, and lilac tints. The setting of the painting was typical of Leickert. He often chose riverbank scenes which were full of human activity. He himself often lived in houses which were close to river or canal banks, such as the Rokin, in the centre of Amsterdam.

Fisherfolk on the Beach near Scheveningen by Charles Leickert

Having lived in both The Hague and Amsterdam he would have visited the coast on many occasions especially the fishing village of Scheveningen. Although Leickert will always be remembered for his cityscapes and landscapes he did paint coastal scenes. One such work was Fisherfolk on the beach near Scheveningen, the setting and type of depiction was very popular with artists.

Self portrait by Charles Leickert (1852)

We think of Leickert as a painter of enchanting scenes whether it be a riverscape, landscape or cityscape but the one facet of his talent is somewhat surprising – that of a portraitist, although he never contemplated this genre as a professional alternative to landscape painting. His 1852 Self Portrait was a triumph of tonal modulations used in the facial depiction. Look at how Leickert use of light on the skin and dark areas, as well as the clever way in which he shapes the background by the use of varying tones. What is Leickert trying to achieve with this portrait? What does he want us to take away after viewing the painting? Look at the way he is both well-groomed and well-dressed. Look at his facial expression – serious and somewhat imposing. What he has achieved with this depiction is a portrait of a professional and successful man, one who has gained success professionally as an artist and attained social acceptance. There is even a hint of elitism in his demeanour.

A Cappricio View of Utrecht by Charles Leickert

Leickert’s landscapes and cityscapes focused on life as it was and he rarely added to his depictions anything which signalled the changes that were taking place. He shied away from modernity. His paintings concentrated on picturesque towns and ageless, unspoilt landscapes. Such depictions had the wistful feeling of Romanticism.

At the ‘koek en zopie’ in a Panoramic Winter Landscape by Charles Leickert

I love his portrayal of the frontages of the old Dutch streets. I love how he instils in the viewer a sense of warm cosiness and contentment as we look at a winter scene with the refreshment stall on the ice. An example of this is his 1892 painting entitled At the ‘koek en zopie’ in a Panoramic Winter Landscape.

Numerous Skaters near a koek-en-zopie on a FrozenWaterway by a Mansion by Charles Leickert (1892)

Koek en zopie (cookies and hooch!) were refreshment stalls on the ice which sold cakes and biscuits as well as hot alcoholic drinks. The strange quirk of why these stalls were on the ice and not on the land was because if they had been positioned on the mainland there would have been a tax levied on their products. Nowadays these small stalls sell drinks such as split pea soup and hot chocolate. Another painting by Leickert which featured the koek en zopie was entitled Numerous Skaters near a koek-en-zopie on a Frozen Waterway by a Mansion.  On the frozen water, we see villagers engaged in their daily routines. For some, whom we see skating, it is leisure time whilst others in the depiction are using the ice to transport goods. A house with a snow-covered step gable can be seen on the right of the painting. This tall structure forms a vertical compositional element and is echoed in the two windmills and the mast of the small boat which appears to be stuck in the ice. Look at how Leickert has accurately depicted the ice with all the scratches in its surface made by the skaters and sleighs. Look at how Leickert has depicted the sky. It is masterful with variance of colours, different tones of pink, blue and grey added to which are the dark clouds. The warm colours for the sky contrasts and enhances the whiteness of the snow which emphasises the coldness of the winter day.

A Frozen Canal with a Peasants by Charles Leickert

In 1859, forty-three-year-old Leickert leaves Amsterdam and travels to Germany where he journeyed down the Rhine valley calling at Rudesheim and later Mainz where he stayed for some time – time enough to meet, fall in love with, and on September 29th, within the year of their first meeting, marry thirty-six-year-old, Apollonia Schneider. The couple returned to the Netherlands in 1861, settling for a year in Frederikstraat in The Hague before returning to Amsterdam, where his drawings and paintings drew the attention of King Willem III.

Winter Scene with Figures by Charles Leickert

Over time Leickert’s paintings became less popular as they were beginning to be looked upon as old fashioned and the new painters of The Hague and Amsterdam could command prices three-times as high as his were sold for. In 1887, Leickert, then seventy-one years of age decided to end his artistic career, left The Netherlands, and returned with his wife to Mainz, where twenty-eight years earlier, they had married.

Figures on the Ice Unloading a Sledge by Charles Leickert

Charles Leickert died in Mainz on December 5th, 1907, aged ninety-one. His obituary notice stated he was a widower with no children and it is believed that his wife Apollonia had died a few years earlier. Leickert was a prolific artist producing approximately seven hundred paintings, of which he only exhibited about eight-five.

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Most of the information for the three blogs on Charles Leickert came from excellent 1999 book entitled Charles Leickert 1816-1907: Painter of Dutch Landscape by Harry J Kraaij

 

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Charles Leickert. Part 2 – The influences of Andreas Schelfhout, Wijnand Nuyen and Charles Rochussen

 

 

Portrait of Charles Leickert by Charles Pieneman (1853)

…………………………………………In 1834, whilst attending the The Hague Drawing Academy Leickert gained a First Prize in the Third Grade which allowed him to enter the studio of Wijnand Nuyen. It was also at this establishment that he attended classes in architecture and ornamental drawings which was a perfect artistic grounding for him and proved a great help when he went on to paint his cityscape depictions.

River Landscape with Ruins by Wijnand Nuijen

A fellow student and friend of Charles Leickert from The Hague Drawing Academy Wijnand Nuijen opened his own atelier in 1833 and sometime later, in the mid 1830’s, it is known that Leickert worked there. It was through Nuijen that Leickert, although he carried on with his cityscape depictions, became more interested in the painting of nature. Dutch landscape paintings became very popular in the nineteenth century and there was a great demand for works depicting rivers and windmills. Many looked upon this painting genre as being a testament to the greatness of their country and the oneness with God. The nineteenth century Dutch merchant and poet, Reijer Hendrik Someren, in his lecture to the Rotterdam Drawing Society in 1830 summed up this feeling when he talked about:

“…Vaderlandsche goede zeden, Vaderlandsche genoegens, Vaderlandsche huiselijkheid…”
(Fatherlandish virtues, Fatherlandish pleasures, Fatherlandish domesticity)

It was the belief that nature and God are as one. It was a pantheistic view that all reality is identical with divinity.

Ice Merriment Near a Mill by Andreas Schelfhout

Leickert’s time with Nuyen did not last long as the latter died in 1839, at the young age of twenty-six. After the death of his mentor Leickert went to the studio of Andreas Schelfhout, an artist who had once taught Nuyen. Nuyen had married one of Schelfhout’s daughters and it was incumbent on Schelfhout to take on his late son-in-law’s atelier and his pupils. Schelfhout at the time was one of the highest paid artists of The Hague, one of the most influential Dutch landscape artists of his century and one of the most sought-after teachers.

Winter Scene by Charles Leickert (1867)

Leickert flourished as a painter under the mentorship of Schelfhout. Schelfhout and been known for his wonderful landscapes and certainly influenced Leickert and his first winter landscape was greeted by an art critic who stated:

“…Mr C Leycert, of The Hague, demonstrates with a winter scene with some buildings that he has turned the lessons of his master to good use…”

A Village Along A River, A Town In The Distance by Charles Leickert (1880)

Despite that first winter landscape work Leickert’s first love was always for summer landscapes. Although the landscapes were his own work, critics were often keen to point out the influence of Schelfhout on the depiction. One river scene of his which was shown at an exhibition was commented upon by the art critic of the art newspaper, Kunstkronijk, wrote of this influence:

“…A river view by M. Leickert, in The Hague, is well drawn and painted, soft and charming in tone, in the manner of Schelfhout, whom he fortunately seems to be emulating…”

However, there were other critics who thought that this copying of Schelfhout’s style was not beneficial to Leickert and wondered if it were not for Schelfhout, Leickert’s works may not even exist, one wrote:

“…Would not the handsome work by C. Leickert be less pleasing if we were less accustomed to the winter views by Schelfhout?…”

Maybe such implied criticism was to be expected as Schelfhout was adored by critics and the public and many were annoyed that Leickert was merely copying the great man’s style. However, for Schelfhout, Leickert was the most gifted of his pupils and probably the copying of his style by his pupil may have endeared him more to the master.

Summer River View by Charles Leickert (c.1847)

Over time Leickert liked to produce landscapes which incorporated stretches of water, whether it be lakes or rivers. They were characterised by pale hues. Take for example his painting Summer River View which he completed around 1847 and is now housed in the Douwes Gallery in Amsterdam. Look at the colours used for the sky and water. Look how many different tones of blue and grey  he has used and these are contrasted by the golden/sandy tones of the shore. Our eyes are always drawn to the red colour in a painting and in this case, we immediately note the red roofs of the houses in the middle ground but we are also drawn to look at the launching of the boat because one of the men pushing the boat towards the water wears a bright red jacket. From there our eyes wander further into the depiction towards the white-sailed boat which is moored across the river, behind which is a castle in the background. It is a fascinating work and one which makes us carefully search the painting so that we do not miss any of the details. This painting, like many of Leickert’s landscapes, incorporate a certain amount of staffage. Staffage, in painting, are the human and animal figures depicted in a scene, especially a landscape, that are not the primary subject matter of the work, but in the case of Leickert the staffage was always subservient to the landscape and there were rarely any facial expressions seen on the small characters. For Leickert, it was all about the beauty of the landscape.

Park in the Vicinity of Paris by Charles Rochussen (1848)

Leickert was twenty-five years old when he first journeyed outside his homeland, a year after he was released from the Civic Orphanage in 1841. He visited Germany with his fellow painters Carl Eduard Ahrendts and Charles Rochussen, a former fellow student of Nuyen. He often collaborated with Rochussen with his landscape work arranging for Rochussen to add the staffage in his landscape depictions.

The Frozen River by Charles Leickert

By the mid-1840’s Leickert’s paintings had increased in popularity and he was starting to accumulate money from their sales. Having left the orphanage he moved to rented accommodation in Nieuwe Molstraat which was in the neighbourhood where he had spent his early childhood. It is thought that he may also have, by this time, his own studio.

Pulchri Studio, The Hague

In 1847, we know that Leickert was involved with the formation of the Pulchri Studio that year, as his signature was on the Pulchri Studio Regulation. The Pulchri Studio, which I mentioned in my blogs about Hendrik Mesdag,  was established in 1847.  It is a Dutch art society, art institution and art studio based in The Hague. It was modelled on the successful artist colony of Barbizon south of Paris in the forest of Fontainebleau and still exists today. The chairman of this organisation at its inception and for a number of years was Leickert’s old mentor Bartholemus van Hove.

A Summer View on Overschie by Charles Leickert (1870)

In 1848 Leickert left The Hague and moved to Amsterdam. So why did he move as we know his paintings were selling well in the city? Maybe the reason was that Leickert, along with many of Schelfhout’s pupils, were churning out numerous landscape works and Leickert may have believed that the landscape market in The Hague was reaching saturation point. Maybe he also wanted to go out on his own and break away from Schelfhout. Whatever the reason, Leickert left The Hague and rented a house in Kalverstraat in Amsterdam which he shared with Rochussen. From there, their collaborative work continued. He became a member of the Amsterdam art society Arti et Amicitiae (art and friendship) which was founded in 1839 and still exists today. Historians have made a comparison between the art establishments of Pulchri Studio in The Hague and the Arti et Amicitiae society in Amsterdam and believed the latter to be classier, which was just as Leickert liked. Later, in 1856 he became a member of the Royal Academy of Drawing of Fine Arts of Amsterdam and became a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy.

……………………………. to be concluded

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Most of the information for the three blogs on Charles Leickert came from excellent 1999 book entitled Charles Leickert 1816-1907: Painter of Dutch Landscape by Harry J Kraaij

Charles Leickert. Part 1. The early years, influences and tutors

Charles Leickert by Nicolaas Pieneman (1853)

My featured artist today and over the next two blogs, is the Dutch nineteenth century landscape painter Charles Henri Joseph Leickert. His painting genre was also often associated with another artistic “-ism”, that of Romanticism. But what is Romanticism when used as a description of an artist’s work. In his 1950 book De Romanesken, the Dutch art writer, Frans Hannema described Romanticism in art as:

“…A great emotive stirring of the heart; an all enveloping expansion of feeling; a controllable urge for the whimsical, the grotesque, the fantastic and the eerie; a boundless desire and self-imposed hardship; a fantastic devotion and passionate contempt; an unfathomable nostalgia for the transience of all happiness and for the inconstancy of all things; a flight from circumscribed reality to the interminable dream: these are the fiercely jostling and often contradictory emotions with which the soul of the Romantic individual is affected…”

Two Undershot Watermills with Men Opening a Sluice by Jacob van Ruysdael (1650s)

However, Romanticism in art was not that evident in Dutch paintings of the time. The leading Romantics of the nineteenth century were the Frenchman, Théodore Géricault, and Eugene Delacroix and the German Caspar David Friedrich. Dutch paintings in the early nineteenth century were generally limited to landscapes and cityscapes. The favourite Dutch artists of the time were from the bygone days of the seventeenth century such as Jan van Goyen, Salomon van Ruysdael, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Isaac van Ostade. Unlike the Romantic depictions of forests and waterfalls depicted in Jacob van Ruysdael’s works, Leickert preferred to depict everyday Dutch village and river scenes with their picturesque embankments or winter scenes featuring frozen canals on which people would be seen skating, and the frozen rivers and canals would often be overlooked by windmills. However, the Romantic title associated with Leickert was probably due to his ability to saturate his scenes with what is almost a supernatural light which was so prevalent in his depictions especially those featuring the evening sun.

Ice Merriment Near a Mill by Andreas Schelfhout

So why is Leickert not a well-known Dutch artist? Some historians believe the answer lies with his character. He was a shy person and often hid his light under the proverbial bushel. The bushel being his mentor and teacher, Andreas Schelfhout, whose shadow Leickert was pleased to remain under. The subject of Schelfhout’s works was very similar to that of Leickert or maybe that should be seen the other way around! Andreas Schelfhout was a Dutch painter, etcher, and lithographer, known for his landscape paintings. Schelfhout belonged to the Romantic movement and his Dutch winter scenes with frozen canals and skaters were already famous during his lifetime.

Charles Leickert was born on September 22nd, 1816 in Brussels. His parents were, his father Henricus Michael Leickert who had been born in Wittendorf, Germany in 1781 and his mother, also German-born, Henrietta Frederique Martilly. Leickert’s parents, who were married in Berlin, lived there until 1815, at which time with the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and the subsequent ending of the First French Empire, the French were driven out of the Netherlands and Leickert’s father, mother, and his eldest sister, two-year-old, Louïze Frederica, moved from Berlin to Brussels.

Summer Landscape by Charles Leickert

Leickert’s father gained employment as the King’s chamberlain (valet de chambre) at the court of King Willem I. At this time, and until 1820, the Kingdom of the Netherlands had twin seats of government, The Hague in Northern Netherlands, and Brussels in Southern Netherlands and so Henricus Leicker, as part of the royal entourage, had to move with his family backwards and forwards from one city to the other. In 1816 Charles Leickert was born in Brussels while some his younger siblings were later born in The Hague. Finally, around 1820 The Hague was designated as the sole capital of The Netherlands and the Leickert family made their home there. With the defeat of Napoleon and the ending of the French annexation of the Netherlands thousands of people came to live in the country and the population of The Hague swelled. The surge in population led to housing shortages, poor sanitation and disease which led to a large rise in infant mortality. The Leickert family were hit hard losing most of their children before they reached adulthood, some due to typhoid and tuberculosis and his three-year-old brother died of his burns in a fire.

View of the Old Women and Children’s Hospital in The Hague by Bartholomeus van Hove (1830)

Charles Leickert managed to survive and when he was just twelve years old, because he was showing talent as an artist, his father enrolled him into The Hague Drawing Academy in 1827. The tutor who had the most influence on Leickert was the Dutch landscape and cityscape painter, Bartholomeus van Hove. In 1828, a year after his enrolment, Charles Leickert’s father Henricus died. The cause of death was given as verval van krachten which simply means a decline in strength which seems very unusual as Henricus was just forty-five years old, but it could have been “part and parcel” of the poor sanitary conditions of the city at the time. Leickert’s mother Henrietta was left to bring up the family but struggled financially as her poor health meant she could not work. She pleaded successfully with the art academy to give her son artistic tuition for free, a decision which says a lot for Leickert’s talent. With no money to pay the mortgage, the king stepped in and bought the house of his one-time servant and Henrietta, along with Charles and his two sisters, Adelheid and Barbara, moved into rented accommodation. The health of Leickert’s mother continued to deteriorate and she eventually died in 1830.

Winter Landscape by Charles Leickert (c.1860)

Charles Leickert’s mother was a great believer in her son’s talent as an artist and she wrote a short poem in one of his sketchbooks as a testament to her belief that one day he would become a great painter. A translated version of her poem is:

Accept this booklet, little Lijket
And fill it with sweet studies
Improve your judgement, and the little heart
That burns with love so sweet for art
With little skills, free from small sorrows
May life flit by till death draws nigh.

Walk in the little field and in small nature
Observe and draw each little hour
Every little object, be it great or small
And great you shall one day be as artist.

Charles then 14 years of age, Adelheid aged 10 and Barbara aged 12 were placed in the Civic Orphanage. Their older sister Louïze, who was eighteen, had her own home as a live-in domestic. Although being consigned to an orphanage seems harsh, it had its benefits. Sanitation was good, the children were inoculated against infections which were killing many children at the time and they were fed and clothed. Life in fact for the children was quite good, and for Charles, being the son of the former First Chamberlain to the King, he was allowed to carry on his art lessons at the Drawing Academy. Art played a part in the orphanage and the children were encouraged to try out art and the most talented would attend painting classes which were funded by charitable bequests.

Winter Scene by Charles Leickert (1867)

It is known, through his biographer, Johannes Immerzeel, that Charles Leickert’s first art teacher was Bartholomeus van Hove who ran a flourishing studio as well as teaching at The Hague Drawing Academy. Whilst under van Hove’s tutelage, Leickert honed his drawing skills and the art of chiaroscuro. The term chiaroscuro derives from the two words chiaro bright (< Latin clārus) + oscuro dark (< Latin obscūrus) and describes the prominent contrast of light and shade in a painting, and how the artist by managing the shadows is able to create the illusion of three-dimensional forms.

…………….. to be continued


Most of the information for the three blogs on Charles Leickert came from excellent 1999 book entitled Charles Leickert 1816-1907: Painter of Dutch Landscape by Harry J Kraaij