By Margaret Burgess
Associate Curator of European Art
The European collections at the Museum have been enriched by two acquisitions. Preeminent 19th-century Dutch Romantic painter Barend Cornelis Koekkoek’s masterpiece Landscape (1849) and 19th-century British painter William Powell Frith’s A Victorian Room (n.d.).
Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (Netherlands, 1803-1862), Landscape, circa 1849, oil on panel, 24 x 22 inches. Gift of the family of Henry A. and Elizabeth C. Laughlin.
Koekkoek’s Landscape is a recent gift to the Museum from the generous family of the late Henry A. and Elizabeth C. Laughlin, and joins the installation of European art on the second floor. Koekkoek adhered to the Ruskinian notion that artists should stay true to the natural world through careful observation; his depiction of trees with broken limbs and bark covered in lichen testifies to his acuity amidst nature and became his trademark. Landscape bolsters our narrative within the galleries of pre-Impressionist art, and not only complements our landscapes of the American Romantic movement, namely those of the Hudson River School, but also French paintings such as Camille Corot’s Untitled Landscape. The painting has been carefully cleaned and conserved by paintings specialist Cynthia Luk at the Williamstown Conservation Center, and it also acquired a new custom frame designed by Troy Stafford who studied historical frames that Koekkoek particularly admired.
William Powell Frith (Great Britian, 1819-1909), A Victorian Room, no date, oil on canvas, 13 1/2 x 8 inches (sight). Museum Purchase.
An intimate interior scene by 19th-century British artist William Powell Frith (1819-1909), A Victorian Room was purchased at the recent Barridoff auction. One of the most popular painters of the Victorian era, Frith was a master at depicting the social world of London. In this interior scene, his careful brushwork captures a myriad of details, from the peacock feathers in the vase to the fan propped at the left. Light filters through the stained glass providing a warm glow to the room. The painting bridges the gap between our 18th-century portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds and our Impressionist painting by Alfred Sisley. Moreover, the work ties in nicely with the Museum’s collections of British drawings which include works by Thomas Rowlandson, Edward Lear, Samuel Prout, and James Holland.