Slmay - Krieghoff

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Introduction 08756 08752 M976.71.1 08766 08765 08771 08757
 

Introduction

When you look at the work of Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872) you begin to see that it is reminiscent of seventeenth century Dutch genre paintings. This raises the question, why would a Canadian artist be so entrenched in a movement that was two hundred years before his time? A Genre painting is one in which the scene is depicting everyday life of ordinary people, generally in a realistic pose. This a type of painting which had blossomed in Holland during the seventeenth century, when a prosperous Dutch Protestant society had sought intimate subjects to provide colour and amusement in their homes.1 But in was an early nineteenth century revival of the original genre movement at Dusseldorf, Germany that was most prevalent to Krieghoff. Krieghoff was born in Amsterdam in 1815. His father was German and his mother, Flemish. He spent most of his young life in Dusseldorf, and it was there that it is thought he received an education in art and music. An educated at the Dusseldorf Academy would account of Krieghoff's interest in genre subjects because the Dusseldorf Academy "was one of Europe's liveliest art schools and showed a tremendous interest in genre subjects".2 So it is no surprising that having spent time at the Academy when he was growing up and also having returned later in his life, that he felt the influence of the popular genre paintings. There is evidence that Krieghoff did a number of copies of seventeenth century Dutch paintings. Including one by Hendrick Van Avercamp(1585-1663) which depicts men playing hockey, and that now is in the national gallery in London.3 Eventually Krieghoff found his way to Canada. He live with his wife and daughter in Longueuil and later also lived in Montreal and Quebec. The difference found in Krieghoff's work is that they are not traditional European genre scene, they are Canadian genre scenes. Krieghoff looked to everyday Canadian life for his inspiration, and he found it everywhere. He used outdoor winter scenes, families together around the table and even the aboriginal population to create charming ideal scenes. Krieghoff was painting pictures for a comfortable bourgeois class who were living materialistic lives; neither he nor his patrons were interested in seeing beggars, the victims of the typhus epidemic, or other evidence of the realities of life at that time.4 Krieghoff also took inspiration from other Dutch artist such as, Salomon van Ruysdael (1600-70) and Jan van de Capelle(1624-79) who also painted winter scenes, but it is in works like Winter Scene by Adriaen van de velde (1636-72) that Krieghoff truly found his home. That pieces "emphasis on human activity, is typical of other paintings that influenced [Krieghoff] in both its composition and its spirit".5 Needless to say it was the Dutch winter landscapes in which Krieghoff found much of his inspiration for his depictions of Longueuil. This is well demonstrated in the first example of the three comparisons we will look at in this data base. The three sets of comparisons you will see next are to illustrate the similarities between Krieghoff's work and those of Dutch seventeenth century genre paintings, but as you will see although there are many similarities, Krieghoff's works have a definitively Canadian spin.



1. J. Russell Harper, Krieghoff (Ontario:Key Porter Books, 1999), 5.
2. Harper, Krieghoff, 5.
3. Harper, Krieghoff, 36.
4. Harper, Krieghoff, 36.
5. Harper, Krieghoff, 36.