Landscapes along the Lower Rhine, the Seven Mountains and even Rheinfels Castle near Sankt Goar – B.C. Koekkoek and his fellow painters travelled up and down the Lower and Middle Rhine in search of atmospheric subjects. These destinations were easy to reach from Cleves, they simply took a steamer down river. As to the valleys of the Rhine tributaries – as an enthusiastic walker, Koekkoek explored those on foot.
The great English painter J. M. W. Turner had travelled along the romantic Rhine valley and showcased it in his pictures back in 1817. More than two decades later, in 1841, Koekkoek published his “Memories and Messages of a Landscape Painter”, a stylised travelogue about the Ahr valley, in which he recorded his views on art.
In the book, he also described the typical daily routine of a travelling painter:
“The painter stays there […] enthralled by the beauty for weeks […]. In the mornings, he rises early, drinks his cup of coffee; tucking his sketch book under one arm, he goes out; at midday he returns for lunch […]; afterwards, he takes a little nap, writes, has coffee and goes out again. In the evening, he returns home as darkness falls. By that time, he is naturally parched, and so he relishes his wine.”
German artists, noted Koekkoek with a shake of the head, paid too little attention to the way the light changes during the course of the day, while Dutch artists went in search of the gentle light in the morning and evening hours. In fact, Koekkoek looked down on his fellow artists from the famous Düsseldorf school of painters – their contrasts were too sharp, they used too many blues. He, on the other hand, used a wide range of delicately coordinated, nuanced colours and subtle shading of the light to convey the view of colours and atmosphere.
His younger brother, Marinus Adrianus Koekkoek, shared his views, as you can see from some of his works here in this room.
Koekkoek’s student Hendrik Lot, on the other hand, switched from the Cleves to the Düsseldorf school of painting. If you check the long wall to your right, you’ll find a misty river landscape he painted in the 1850s. The painting is still very much in the Koekkoek style. Later, Lot moved to Düsseldorf and became closely involved in the art scene there.
Before we discuss the Koekkoek’s students, friends and companions in more detail, take a moment to glance into the two adjoining rooms in the rear corner on the right – the ones that are not accessible. The built-in features in there are from the period after Koekkoek’s death. The next stop will tell you more about the architectural history of the house.
Gemälde II: Leihgabe Ernst von Siemens-Kunststiftung. Foto © B.C.Koekkoek-Haus