Andreas Schelfhout - A Winter Scene With Several Skaters on a Sunlit Frozen Estuary

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Andreas Schelfhout (1787-1870)

A Winter Scene With Several Skaters on a Sunlit Frozen Estuary. To the Left, a Ruin of a Water Supply Tower and in the Distance the Outlines of a City (Dordrecht?)

oil on panel 18,5 x 24,1 cm
frame size 35 x 41 cm
signed lower left: A. Schelfhout
c. 1840-1850

Provenance:
Bukowskis International Sale, 26-28 May 1999, Lot 472, as Vinter i Holland (Winter in Holland) by Andreas Schelfout,
Hammer price 21.162€ (includning buyers premium c. 25.900€); Private Collection Stockholm.

Certificate of Authenticity by Willem Laanstra, registered in the
archives of A. Schelfhout, under nr.  WO 18-1.

Andreas Schelfhout, his life and education (Text by Willem Laanstra)

Andreas Schelfhout was born in The Hague on February 16, 1787, as son of Jean Baptist Schelfhout, who was a gilder of frames for paintings, from Ghent and Cornelia van Hove. Training initially in his father’s business as a housepainter, it soon became evident that he possessed artistic talent. In 1811 the public was introduced to his artistic endeavours. In that year he made his debut in The Hague at an exhibition of ’Painters and Amateurs’ with three small paintings. Reactions to Schelfhout’s entries and whether or not he sold them, is not known. But from that moment on, it was clear that he must become an artist, although he was already married and father to two daughters.

To further develop his skills as professional painter, he was sent in 1811 to study with the The Hague stage designer J.A.A.H Breckenheimer (1772-1836). This apprenticeship in Breckenheimer’s studio was valuable to his development. There he learned not only to draw and paint motifs such as landscapes, flowers, city scenes and human bodies. Still more important, he was required to make studies of the technical aspects such as perspective and paint preparation. Breckenheimer suggested him to make detailed studies of the great seventeenth-century masters as A. Cuyp and J. van Goyen and encouraged him to wander in the countryside to make sketches. The sketches from this period, mostly in pencil or black chalk, are almost never subjects for paintings, but are preliminary studies which he would adept as a component of a painting. later he made more detailed studies for paintings. Schelfhout remained under the tutelage of Breckenheimer until 1815. Later, when art critics enquired about his artistic education, he even remained reluctant to talk about it. Schelfhout himself thoroughly trivialized the value of his apprenticeship and sometimes he even denied it ever happened.

In the beginning of his artistic career, he mostly used the larger formats for his paintings, later on he used the smaller panels. Schelfhout did not often date his paintings and it is virtually impossible to establish a chronology. Only the crowded people on the frozen rivers give us any idea in which period he painted these winter panoramas. Although he painted many of those winter scenes, he never slipped into repetitiveness, nor did he handle themes at all routinely. Always he elaborated on the same composition form, but he had an impressive store on inventiveness at his command. Comparison of the different winter scenes, result in paintings whose character is completely distinct. The way in which he ordered elements in the space and his myriad ways of lighting the scene, lead to ever-differing outcomes.

The location of the painting, can be located in the surroundings of the city of Dordrecht.  Even for the Netherlands a typical place, because it is one of the few places where three rivers cross each other. The “Beneden Merwede”, the “Oude Maas” and “De Noord” come together in the so-called three river point. In a bird's-eye view he painted this location with the skyline of Dordrecht at the horizon. Someone who knows the geographical situation recognises immediately the typical contours of the 'Grote Kerk’. If he has painted this location on the basis of his own observation, or if he was inspired by J. van Goyen or A. Cuyp, who both have made beautiful and important summer panoramas of this scene, it's not to recover. In my opinion he made first of all a sketch in watercolour depicting the same location (image 4 in the report). The technical skills of Schelfhout become visible when all the important so-called vanishing lines have been drawn (image 3 in the report). Those fictious lines are necessary for an artist because he has to transform a three-dimensional space on a flat surface. The craftmanship of Schelfhout becomes also visible in the details. All the skaters and the horizon lay beyond the lower Golden Section. The sharp perception ability of Schelfhout also shows in the lighting and the shadow-parts. 

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Andreas Schelfhout - A Winter Scene With Several Skaters on a Sunlit Frozen Estuary
Andreas Schelfhout - A Winter Scene With Several Skaters on a Sunlit Frozen Estuary
Andreas Schelfhout - A Winter Scene With Several Skaters on a Sunlit Frozen Estuary
Andreas Schelfhout - A Winter Scene With Several Skaters on a Sunlit Frozen Estuary
Andreas Schelfhout - A Winter Scene With Several Skaters on a Sunlit Frozen Estuary
Andreas Schelfhout - A Winter Scene With Several Skaters on a Sunlit Frozen Estuary
Andreas Schelfhout - A Winter Scene With Several Skaters on a Sunlit Frozen Estuary
Andreas Schelfhout - A Winter Scene With Several Skaters on a Sunlit Frozen Estuary
Andreas Schelfhout - A Winter Scene With Several Skaters on a Sunlit Frozen Estuary
Andreas Schelfhout - A Winter Scene With Several Skaters on a Sunlit Frozen Estuary