These days, it’s all excitement and action here in the family’s former salon. A glance at the paintings reveals skies roiling with clouds, crashing waves, frothing sea-foam and shipwrecks.
B.C. Koekkoek came from Zeeland, in the south-western corner of the Netherlands. His father, Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek, had also achieved fame and honour as a painter. In fact, the oldest work in the house is by him – it’s the first one on the wall to your left as you enter this room. It shows a group of people (who have clearly just been rescued) looking shocked and desperate. They’re staring out at the raging sea, where several sailing boats are being consumed by the waves. A crowded sloop is still struggling through the swell, while a handful of men haul a lifeboat up on to the rocky shore.
Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek had specialised in painting maritime subjects, seascapes. One of his sons – Hermanus Koekkoek Senior – and several of his sons followed in his footsteps. Barend Cornelis and his brother Marinus Adrianus, on the other hand, turned their attention to woodland and hence to a different kind of landscape painting.
However, the underlying philosophical theme remained the same. In the forest landscapes as well as in the seascapes, it’s all about where humanity ranks in relation to the natural world, about ways in which human beings can control and dominate the forces of nature, and where they are powerless to do so.
However, Barend Cornelis Koekkoek took his first steps as an artist within his father’s chosen genre. On your screen now is a page of sketches by the youthful artist with studies of boats. Whether sailing calmly along, or dangerously keeling over – these eight images of boats could easily appear in one of the paintings in this room.
In order to draw the sailing vessels as accurately as possible, the artists sometimes used model boats made of wood. You’ll find one such model on the book case here in this room.
Now, if you move on into the small adjoining room, you can find out more about later generations of the Koekkoek family of painters.