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Andreas Schelfhout

1787 - 1870

Andreas Schelfhout was one of the most important and influential Dutch landscape artists of the 19th Century. Born in The Hague on 16th February, 1787, he worked for his father in a gilding and picture framing business until he was 24 years old. He worked there as a house-painter, painting pictures in his spare time. In 1811 Schelfhout made his debut in The Hague at an exhibition of painters and amateurs with three small landscapes. These pictures were well received and his parents began to realise Schelfhout's artistic potential. They sent him to study in The Hague under J.A.A.H. Breckenheimer who was a stage designer. Here he learnt to paint motifs such as city scenes and landscape but also the technical aspects of painting such as perspective and paint preparation. Schelfhout made detailed studies of the great 17th Century Masters and also sketched en plein air in the countryside. The artist stayed with Breckenheimer until 1815 and his development as an artist during this time was enormous. He began to exhibit his works more regularly and they were well received. Interest in his paintings was initially confined to The Hague but by 1816 his name was known in Belgium and from then onwards the artist's rise to fame was rapid. He exhibited four works in Amsterdam (the four seasons) which were highly acclaimed and he received a Gold Medal at the exhibition in Antwerp in 1819. Schelfhout's acute sense of observation ensured that he could recreate fleeting moods very naturally. His success continued to mount and when Amsterdam's Royal Academy for Visual Arts was instituted in 1818 Schelfhout was immediately made a member. In 1822 he was named Fourth Class Correspondent of the Royal Dutch Institute and from that moment on his reputation was ensured. Schelfhout exhibited many more summer landscapes than winter ones in the Exhibition of Living Masters as the winter scene was not yet a recognised form in Holland at that time. However, as the winter scenes grew in popularity he began to include them in the exhibitions. His choice of motif between the years 1825 and 1828 was very varied: summer and winter landscapes, beach scenes, moonlight subjects and some animal paintings. He was deeply awed by the violence in nature and he once went to Scheveningan during a terrible storm, just to witness and record the event. He was one of the first of the 19th century artists to contemplate this theme which was later taken up in earnest by the artists of the Hague School. During this period Schelfhout recorded his paintings with sketches in a book. This LiberVeritatis would suggest that the artist's output was about twenty painting per year. The sketches are accompanied by details of the purchasers of the paintings and these included private and royal collectors. Of the 79 works recorded in the book, 33 are Dutch landscapes, 24 are winter landscapes, 7 are beach scenes and 12 are foreign views. This last fact suggests that Schelfhout first travelled abroad around 1825.

Schelfhout continued to exhibit his works and his fame increased. However, his personality and his feelings of self-worth kept him open to new subjects and developments. Around 1834 the artist realised that his palette was greener than other contemporary artists such as Nuyen and Isabey. He decided to travel again to increase his awareness of nature and other artistic trends. Consequently he visited France in 1833, England in 1835 (to acquaint himself with the works of Constable) and Germany. His palette became warmer and his choice of motifs became more varied after these trips. The panorama theme continued to develop and became increasingly important in his work. From 1830 he regularly chose the Dunes near Haarlem as a motif and he became increasingly inspired by the achievements of the Industrial Revolution.

Schelfhout died on 23rd April, 1870. He was buried in the Eik en Duinen Cemetery in The Hague. His death made a deep impression on the art-loving city and numerous influential figures followed the funeral procession. His death marked the end of the era we now call Romanticism. Back to list