Tuesday, 2 June 2015


For a fascinating look at the same beach painted by many different artists click here.

Johan-Barthold Jongkind was a Dutch painter, born near Rotterdam 3 June 1819.

Jongkind's most frequent subject was the marine landscape of Holland and in France. Many of his works depict the river Seine, particularly near Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

He painted small plein air watercolors and used them to inspire larger oils painted in his studio. For this very reason, his watercolours are more pleasing to the modern eye; they have a fresh, jewel like quality which is missing in his studio oils. His oil paintings exhibit strong grid like compositions often with a bold focal point and always dramatic skies. He often composed his landscapes with a low horizon and dominant sky like the 17th-century Dutch landscape painters. His love of strong contrast is apparent in both media.

In 1846 Jongkind was a young man in Paris. He studied under Schelfhout and Mme Fesser and worked in the studio of Eugene Isabey. By 1862 he was back in Holland, in Le Havre and this was a very prolific time for him. At this time he was working with Eugene Boudin and Claude Monet. Monet regarded him as his most influential master.

A restless soul, he moved from place to place, painting in Le Havre and Normandy in the Netherlands, Paris, La Dauphine and Provence in France and Grenoble, Switzerland. Dogged by psychosis and alcoholism he was committed to an asylum in Grenoble in 1878. He died there 19 Feb 1891.

I find his portrait quite compelling: It depicts a rather eccentric, stern man with a certain sense of style. I want to draw him into conversation, uncover what those piercing eyes have seen and discover his secrets. I can't quite reconcile this person with his art. Somehow, I think he had more to offer which would have made him extraordinarily famous, but something held him back. In art history, poverty, psychosis and posthumous fame seems to be the norm, but fame escaped Jongkind. Although contemporary artists greatly admired him, he  is relatively unknown today.