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Andreas Schelfhout (The Hague 1787-1870)

A watermill in Oosterbeek

signed with initials and inscribed ‘A S oosterbeek’
graphite, watercolour and bodycolour, graphite framing lines, watermark ‘JH & Z [Honig]’ 23.3 x 26.5 cm

Private collection, The Netherlands.

C. Q. van Ufford, 'Andreas Schelfhout (1787-1870). Landschapschilder in Den Haag (1787- 1870)', Leiden, 2009, p. 53 and note 47.

Andreas Schelfhout is regarded, along with Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (1803-1862), as the leading representative of the restrained Dutch version of Romantic landscape painting. The source of inspiration for Schelfhout’s swift brushwork (which finds its origin in France), came from the work of his promising, yet prematurely deceased pupil, Wijnand J.J. Nuijen (1813- 1839). Nuijen began his apprenticeship with Schelfhout at the age of 13 and would later become his son-in-law. That Schelfhout was destined for great fame even without Nuijen's influence is demonstrated by this particularly fine watercolour study. Schelfhout’s inscription at lower left refers to the village of Oosterbeek, located near Arnhem in Gelderland, where, in the second half of the 19th century, an artist’s colony was based. The ancient forests, and the small hills (a rarity in the Dutch landscape of course), were a huge draw for young painters from the ‘Haagse School’ such as Willem Roelofs, Paul Gabriël, Anton Mauve, and the brothers Jacob, Maris, and Willem Maris who worked there around 1850 and 1860. These artists followed in the footsteps of Dutch 17th century artists like Jacob van Ruysdael and Nicolaes Berchem, who had travelled through Gelderland two hundred years earlier in 1650.

The present drawing shows a so-called ‘bovenslag-watermolen’, a water-mill which is driven by water falling from a wooden channel onto a large wheel, in Oosterbeek.[1] These mills were powered by streams and (man-made) springs flowing downhill. The height differences in the Gelderland landscape were created when land ice from the north pushed towards the Dutch river delta with great force some 150,000 years ago. The Veluwe plateau provided natural resistance, causing its edges to be pushed up into relatively high banks. The ‘Veluwezoom’ forms the southern part of these moraines along the Rhine; at the picturesque village of Oosterbeek, the height difference to the river is about 65 to 70 metres. [2]

Schelfhout likely created this particularly inspired depiction of an old watermill in 1818 during a study trip through Gelderland.[3] There are no known drawings from that trip that are dated, but in 1819, Schelfhout exhibited a painting for which he was awarded a prize in Antwerp (and a year later in The Hague) showing A Gelderland Landscape at Sunset Seen from a Height, with the Village of Oosterbeek in the Distance.4 Another drawing by Schelfhout made during his trip through Gelderland which is close in style, subject and execution to the present drawing shows several sketches, including a barn and castle Doorweth near Arnhem in Gelderland. [5]

In subsequent years, Schelfhout produced further paintings based on impressions and studies from that journey through the Gelderland landscape.6 However, a painting based on the present drawing is unknown. That Schelfhout, or at least his pupil Lodewijk Johannes Kleijn (1817-1897) was particularly font of this drawing, is attested by a copy by the latter artist after it. [7] We can only guess whether this was done as a teaching assignment or out of admiration for the painterly effects that Schelfhout was able to achieve in his watercolours.

[1] According to a description from around 1845, there was one water-paper mill and there were two water-corn mills in operation in the village of Oosterbeek at that time, see; A.J. van der Aa, Aardrijkskundig woordenboek der Nederlanden, Gorinchem 1839-1851, vol. 8, pp. 501-502. Furthermore, ‘De Nederlandse Molendatabase’ describes several further ‘bovenslag-watermolens’, see: mill_search%5Bplace%5D=&mill_search%5Bprovince_code%5D=&commit=zoek [accessed 11 June 2024].
[2] See, for example, Jeroen Kapelle, Magie van de Veluwezoom, Arnhem, 2006, pp. 15-18.
[3] See C.Q. van Ufford, op. cit., Leiden, 2009, pp. 48-53.
[4] W. Laanstra, Andreas Schel>out, 1787-1870, Amsterdam, 1995, pp. 17 and 223; Quarles van Ufford, ibid., pp. 49, 53 and fig. 45, p. 55.
[5] C.Q. van Ufford, ibid., fig. 42.
[6] Laanstra, 'op. cit.', p. 223-224 (painting exhibitions between 1820 and 1834). Schelfhout travelled through Gerlderland for a commission by King Willem I in 1838 to paint Het Loo Palace (where the painting is sell today).
[7] Watercolour, 18.6 x 27.8 cm, annotated ‘Oosterbeek’ (see photograph in RKD-Netherlands Institute for Art History, when in a private collection in 1975).

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