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Johannes Bosboom

(1817–1891, The Hague)

The Interior of the Noorderkerk in Hoorn. Watercolour, white heightening. 50 x 41 cm. Signed: “J. Bosboom”. Circa 1880.

This atmospheric church interior belongs to a set of drawings and watercolours which the painter and water-colourist Johannes Bosboom created in the course of a stay in the northern Dutch town of Hoorn in September 1880. Although Bosboom subsequently painted at least eight watercolours of the interior of the Late Gothic Noorderkerk, our version is unquestionably the most significant and artistically ambitious variant of this subject.

The artist is one of the most respected representatives of the Hague School. In addition to landscapes and rustic genre paintings Bosboom had been painting church interiors since the 1840s and found therein the real focus of his artistic work. He thus consciously took his place in the tradition of his great 17th century predecessors, such as Pieter Jansz. Saenredam and Emmanuel de Witte, while still giving this kind of painting a unique interpretation of his own. His watercolours, in particular, reveal a refined painting technique which wholly corresponds to the aesthetic principles of his time and is informed by luminist principles. The broad, fluid brushwork, which is primarily aimed at atmospheric effect instead of a wealth of detail, is reminiscent of the Barbizon school’s style of painting. Although in our drawing Bosboom has not dispensed with the portrayal of staffage figures, they play a distinctly subordinate role in the subtly observed microcosm of light and darkness. The rendering of the dim, golden afternoon light and the striking contrast between the pure white architecture and the deep, dark brown tones of the church furnishings, beams and vault is the real subject of the picture. The result is a meditative, timeless atmosphere whose effect is not lost on the viewer.

Provenance: J. Bingham Collection, Utrecht; Kunsthandlung Frans Buffa & Söhne, Amsterdam, October 1916; Collection Ed. van Dam, Amsterdam. 1917. Exhibitions: Kunsthandlung Frans Buffa & Söhne, Johannes Bosboom, Amsterdam, October 1916; Pulchri Studio, Ere Tentoonstelling Johannes Bosboom, The Hague, 1917, no. 65. Literature: W. Marius, G. H. Martin, Johannes Bosboom, The Hague, 1917, p. 150, fig. 48.

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