For Manet, he was the father of modern landscape painting. Monet revered him as his guru and the only successful painter of water. Zola was amazed by his pictures and found him the most interesting person he knew, while Signac regarded him as a genius and the forerunner of Impressionism. They were all talking about Dutch painter Johan Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891), who came from Holland but made France his home. After all the attention lavished on the Impressionists over recent decades, it is high time to revisit the oeuvre of this outstanding artist. This retrospective includes oils, watercolours, sketches and prints from museums and private collections and is the largest exhibition of Jongkind’s work ever held in the Netherlands.
Jongkind was born in Overijssel and studied at The Hague’s Royal Academy of Art in the heyday of Romantic painting. Awarded a scholarship by King Willem I, he went to Paris in 1846, initially to study with French Romantic landscape painter Eugène Isabey. However, he quickly discovered innovative French artists like the painters of the Barbizon School and the Impressionists, who sought inspiration directly from nature. Jongkind had already started to specialise in landscape painting and continued to do so in France. He was struck by the riverside quays and streets of Paris, which he painted in a new, honest and realistic way. He was also one of the first artists to show an interest in the smoking factory chimneys of the Paris suburbs and the advertising slogans that were part of the city scene.
Jongkind took part successfully in the Paris Salon and the (French!) submission to the 1855 World Exhibition. After that, however, his debts forced him to abandon his work and return to the Netherlands. The problem was quickly solved when his friends in Paris held a benefit sale for him, each of them providing a canvas for auction. The proceeds enabled Jongkind to return to France and start a new life. Together with Boudin and Monet, on whom he was to have a decisive influence, he worked on the Normandy coast, extending his repertoire to include views of the sea, rocky coastlines and the ports of Honfleur and Le Havre. By this time, the Impressionists regarded him as one of their own – the freedom and looseness of his technique and his realistic approach to landscape made him their hero. Jongkind’s work was admired not only by fellow-painters and writers, but also by collectors. All his life, his Dutch landscapes and town views found a ready market. His drawings reveal his artistic evolution, while his watercolour technique – working out of doors in a rapid, free and improvisational way – could hardly be more Impressionist. These works are generally studies for his oil paintings.
Even though Jongkind spent three-quarters of his life in France, he never relinquished his ties with the Netherlands. He always remained a Dutchman living in France and was respected for typically Dutch virtues such as realism and faithfulness to nature. For too long Jongkind’s work has been overshadowed by that of other artists. It is high time to examine his originality and explore the beauty of his pictures. “In 1862, “ Monet once said, “his paintings were too new and far too artistic to be properly appreciated”. Now, in 2003, Jongkind is finally receiving the appreciation he deserves.
John Sillevis, Jacques Foucart, Sylvie Patin and Götz Czymmek,Johan Barthold Jongkind, 1819-1891, Zwolle (Waanders) and
Den Haag (Gemeentemuseum Den Haag) 2003. 232 pages. Richly illustrated.
ISBN 90-400-8860-8 (Dutch edition, hardbound). During the exhibition a paperbound edition is available at the respective museums.
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum (6 February-8 May 2004)
Paris, Musée d’Orsay (6 June-19 September 2004).