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Albertus Brondgeest
(1786–1849, Amsterdam)

An Artist Drawing by a Gate. Black chalk, grey and blue wash, framing line in black chalk. 28.9 x 36.5 cm.

This sensitively observed landscape study is a masterpiece of draughtmanship by the Amsterdam artist, Albertus Brondgeest. Using an accurate and sophisticated drawing technique, he has produced a crisp and atmospherically convincing depiction of his native countryside without ever becoming over-fastidious. On the left of the picture an artist sits drawing on a small hill that drops down into a ditch. His old-fashioned garb and high, broad-brimmed hat are reminiscent of 17th century clothing, which gives the depiction a deliberately historicising touch. A barred gate lit up by the mild sunlight just to the left of the centre of the picture and a crooked wooden signpost supply striking visual highlights which give the composition an inner coherence and tension. The chalk, which is subtly applied in different strengths, reproduces the grasses, reeds and shrubs in a varied and lifelike manner. A gentle breeze caresses the lush vegetation and so, with the help of very limited means, the perfect illusion is created of a fresh summer day. The spar­ing blue washes give the work added delicacy, while the entire scene emanates the spirit of the great Dutch predecessors of the Golden Century.

The painter and draughtsman, Albertus Brondgeest, was a pupil of Pieter Gerardus van Os and Jan Hulswit. Born into a well-to-do family, he was also a successful collector and art dealer, which ensured him considerable financial independence. However, it would be wrong to treat his artistic activities as those of a dilettante. Brondgeest made intensive studies of 17th century Dutch painting and produced copies after masters such as Aelbert Cuyp and Meindert Hobbema, thereby laying the ground for his own artistic development. While he was mostly active as a draughtsman and watercolourist at the outset of his artistic career, he later devoted himself primarily to landscape and marine painting at the suggestion of his friend and teacher, Wouter Johannes van Troostwijk, and achieved considerable fame in this field. In 1814 Brondgeest won the gold medal awarded by the Felix Meritis Society in Amsterdam. He was also a member of the Amsterdam Academy and an active member of the city’s private drawing society Zonder Wet of Spreuk. Provenance: collection of I. Q. van Regteren Altena (Lugt 4617).