Johan Barthold Jongkind was one of the foremost landscape painters of the 19th-century. Today, scholars often regard the artist as a pioneer who influenced landscape painting as a whole. He was both an influence and a mentor to distinguished artists, such as Alfred Sisley, Edouard Manet, and Claude Monet, whose artwork was deeply inspired by Jongkind's paintings....
Johan Barthold Jongkind
Johan Barthold Jongkind was one of the foremost landscape painters of the 19th-century. Today, scholars often regard the artist as a pioneer who influenced landscape painting as a whole. He was both an influence and a mentor to distinguished artists, such as Alfred Sisley, Edouard Manet, and Claude Monet, whose artwork was deeply inspired by Jongkind's paintings.
Early Life and Artistic Training
Johan Barthold Jongkind was born in June 1819, in the town of Lattrop, Netherlands. His father, Gerrit-Adrianus Jongkind, was a tax collector. His city was near the German border. When the painter was still an infant, they moved to Vlaardingen. Jongkind had to leave school when he was 16, so he could work. He had a job as the clerk of a solicitor, but his mother, who was widowed, allowed Jongkind to pursue a career as a visual artist.
The Dutch artist studied under Andreas Schelfhout. Schelfhout was at the time a famous painter that worked in the open air, depicting landscapes. The painter gave classes in an academy called The Hague. Biographers of Barthold Jongkind later appointed his first master as a lasting influence in his work, in which the close observation of the Dutch artist allowed him to learn how to sketch nature fast and decisively.
The first works of Jongkind are closer to the traditional landscape, being reminiscent of John Constable's oeuvre, which dealt with the tension of a detailed depiction of nature and the artist's subjective and formal reaction to its subject. In a painting like Winter Scene, from 1846, we see a scene that reminds us of the bucolic mood of the British painter with a certain idyllic quality, but still, the lighting effects attract focus and gives strength to the image. Even the distribution of elements, the way the picture is composed of one-third of land and two-thirds of sky stems from the traditional depiction of landscapes.
In 1845 during an event, the Dutch painter met Eugène Isabey. It was the inauguration of a historical statue at The Hague, and both artists were present. Isabey must have been admiration or curiosity about Jongkind because he invited him to join his atelier in Paris. Johan Barthold Jongkind then moved to Montparnasse, a famous bohemian and artistic neighborhood in Paris, in 1846.
Arriving in Paris
Relocating to Paris was probably one of the most important decisions that Jongkind made. Even though he is considered a precursor to the Impressionist sensibility, there is little documentation on his life, and there are few history and theory work focused on him. If he stayed in his homeland, he probably wouldn't develop such an influential work or have the artistic exchange that he found in 19th century Paris.
Some of the acquaintances that the painter made in his first months in the city were Charles Daubigny, Theodore Rousseau, and Eugene Cicèri. In the year that the artist arrived, in 1846, he went to see the Salon that took place at the Louvre. It was the perfect introduction to French art, and it gave Jongkind a better idea of the differences between the Parisian circuit and the Dutch tradition, which was his base as an artist.
In the next year, Jongkind submitted a painting for the yearly show of The Hague and also visited the northwestern regions of the country. He spent months at the coast, producing watercolors and oil paintings in a decisive trip. The surroundings probably reminded him of his childhood coastal city, but the landscape with cliffs evoked a more potent aura.
The next months in the French capital were marked by political unrest. Known today as the Spring of the Nations, these events were marked by Europe's growing industrialization. The peasants were facing a miserable existence, and urban workers faced from 12 to 15 shifts. Guilds were disappearing, and unemployment was on the rise, ending the Bourbon dynasty reign. Even though the artist didn't directly relate to the events, the feeling of uncertainty in the country made him flee to Holland.
Returning to Holland
Back in his homeland, the artist continued the work with his teacher, Andreas Schelfhout. His ties caught up to the Prince of Orange, for whom he made a series of watercolors. Johan Barthold Jongkind intended to come back to France earlier, but the widespread dissemination of cholera in the capital made him stay for more than five months in Holland.
The artwork he submitted for the Salon of 1849 was approved. With the Prince of Orange becoming the King of Dutch territory, Jongkind had a lucky streak: he was awarded a sum good enough to keep his place in Paris as well as another studio in a different location.
With connections to the Dutch monarch and maintaining a good network of artists and dealers in Paris, the painter had considerable commercial success. The gallerist Adolphe Beugniet started to represent him, and slowly but steadily, the institutional places became receptive to non-academic artwork. In the next years, he worked with pieces in larger scales and was even awarded at the Salon.
Jongkind's commercial affluence was unfortunately short. He was receiving financial help from the Dutch Monarchy, which unexpectedly ended. Not only that, but his mother was in a weakened state. These events increased his depression, which only deepened by his indulgence in alcohol. The artist was selling well, but either wasn't receiving enough for his artwork or couldn't manage money.
His increased debt and the family struggle made him go back to his country. He remained there for five years, painting frequently and keeping in touch with his Parisian friends. Jongkind made a new and fundamental acquaintance: Pierre-Fermin Martin, an art dealer who proved him with a strong alliance and would be one of the reasons for his comeback.
Back in Paris after his period in the Netherlands, in 1861, he rented a studio in Montparnasse, where his artwork started to show a more mature style and a glimpse of the Impressionism to come. The influence of Jongkind's masters became looser with the years, and the artist was reaching his peak, eventually influencing an entire generation.
In the following year, he went to Honfleur to meet some of his friends and fellow artists, such as Eugène Boudin, Alfred Sisley, and young Claude Monet - all of whom looked up to Jongkind as a mentor. Monet even credited Jongkind the "definitive education" of his eye. Jongkind exhibited in the first Salon des Refusés in 1863. Eleven years later, he was invited by the Impressionist group to participate in their first exhibition; however, he declined.
His most frequent subject was marine landscapes, which he executed both in France and in the Netherlands. Several of his works depict the Seine river, especially in the Notre-Dame Cathedral area. He created plein air watercolors and used them as sketches to produce fully realized oil paintings. Painting en plein air was a technique popularized by the Impressionists in which they depicted nature while outdoors but is a practice adopted by many artists before the avant-garde movements took place.
Later Years and Death
Although the artist wasn't the most famous of the early Impressionist painters, he set a strong foundation for the development of 19th-century landscape painting. Jongkind influenced Impressionists and, especially the plein air landscape painting of the Barbizon school.
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