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Jacobus Pelgrom

(1811–1861, Amsterdam)

A Wooded Landscape with Two Men Conversing. Black chalk, brown and gray wash, over black chalk. 54.1 x 41.2 cm. Monogrammed and dated: "J.P. 1842".

This highly atmospheric drawing owes its impressiveness to the monumentality of its composition. Three huge beeches fill up the entire surface of the picture area with their widely spread branches and dense foliage. By employing a refined and varied technique, Pelgrom has represented the characteristic texture of each individual tree. First, chalk lines of varying density were used to capture accurately the outlines of the majestic trees. Then, with short chalk and brush strokes, Pelgrom has put in the details of their weathered bark, giving it an almost tactile quality, while gray and brown washes were applied for the characterisation of the smooth parts of the trunks and branches. The dead beech in the left foreground with its bare branches stands out starkly from the two other trees, whose dense, luxuriant foliage suggest vigour and growth.

Born in Amsterdam in 1811, Jacobus Pelgrom was chiefly known as a landscape painter. Although he studied under Jan Willem Pieneman and Pieter Bartholomeusz. Barbiers, it was probably the overwhelming example of Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (1803–1862) that was mainly responsible for bringing him round to a romantic notion of landscape. Like the latter, Pelgrom found his motifs in the picturesque forests of Gelderland province, which was so different from the flat polder landscape around Amsterdam. While Pelgrom’s painted work was often too strongly influenced by the public taste of his time, his drawings reveal a more independent and original talent. The present highly finished drawing was probably done in the studio on the basis of sketches Pelgrom had made in the open air. As is often also the case with Koekkoek, the staffage figures – a donkey-driver and a man out walking with his dog – seem a bit stagy. Such ambitious full-scale compositions, which count as works of art in their own right, were undoubtedly intended for sale. A stylistically very similar drawing with an identical format is in the collection of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (see Marius van Dam, Miscellanea delineata. Nederlandse tekeningen 1780–1860 uit de collectie Ploos van Amstel Knoef in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, Rotterdam 2007, cat. no. 17, pp. 100–101).

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