Think of 19th-century Romantic painting and you think of artists like Caspar David Friedrich, Eugène Delacroix and William Turner, who produced paintings full of wild countryside and violent emotion. For that reason, people often assume that there was no real Romantic era in Dutch art. But nothing could be further from the truth. In recent years, the Romantic period has increasingly been seen as a time in which the conscious experience of individual emotion, the contemporary age and the relationship between present and past led to more humane and sympathetic attitudes. Influenced by the national, social and cultural climate, this change in mentality occurred in an entirely different way in each country.
In the Netherlands, the Romantic view of the world found expression chiefly through a new interest in spontaneous, individual sentiments and emotional sincerity. This general interest permeated all sections of society – and hence also the art world. In the 19th century, artists began to take the feelings and activities of ordinary people as the theme of their paintings and the familiar pleasures of home became a favourite subject. The resulting pictures provide glimpses of the everyday life of the time: scenes of people skating, squabbling siblings, fishing boats and typical Dutch countryside.
The Rademakers Collection also includes many nocturnal landscapes: picturesque and evocative moonlit scenes of fishermen, ships, windmills and villages.
One of the additions from the Gemeentemuseum’s own collection is a wonderful but anonymous Romantic painting only recently acquired by the museum. It is unusual for the maker of such a relatively modern work to be unknown. Museums frequently purchase anonymous works by Old Masters but seldom do so in the case of paintings from the post-1800 period. In this case, however, the Gemeentemuseum strongly suspects that the painting is by the highly talented artist Wijnand Nuijen. Andreas Schelfhout (Nuijen’s friend and father-in-law) is known to have purchased an unfinished flood scene by him in 1839, at a studio sale following Nuijen’s untimely death. The subject and dimensions of that canvas match those of the painting now bought by the Gemeentemuseum. Years later, the same painting was included in Schelfhout’s own studio sale. Possible further evidence is the fact that Nuijen based other paintings on pictures by the French artist Isabey, who is known to have painted a picture featuring a similar boat and raft.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a Dutch-language version of the lavishly illustrated Russian catalogue produced for the exhibition at the Hermitage. There will be a further opportunity to see the show at the M-Museum in Leuven and the B.C. Koekkoek-Haus in Kleve.