The outdoor ice skating and other winter pastimes of traditional life in the Netherlands have always been inspiration for Dutch artists. One example is the work of Johan Barthold Jongkind (Lattrop, 1819 – La Côte Saint-André, 1891), who in 1864 painted this charming skating scene of the banks of the Overschie, now a Rotterdam suburb, then a tiny village at the juncture of four small rivers. In the icy greys, you can see how cold the artist must have felt that day.
When Johan Barthold Jongkind painted this winter scene, he already had a significant career behind him. Today Johan Barthold Jongkind is regarded as one of the forefathers of impressionism.
Johan Barthold Jongkind is discovered at the Drawing Academy in The Hague, where he studies under the renowned landscape artist Andreas Schelfhout, who recognizes his talent immediately and sends Johan Barthold Jongkind to Paris on a scholarship.
Almost immediately, Johan Barthold Jongkind feels right at home among the cultural elite of the French capital. His circle includes influential art critic Charles Baudelaire, and he is friends with artists of no less note than Rousseau and Corot. Johan Barthold Jongkind is known for his joy de vivre and appreciation of the finer things in life – perhaps a little bit too much, as alcohol becomes a lifelong problem for the artist.
After first exhibiting in the prestigious Salon de Paris in 1848, when Johan Barthold Jongkind is rejected by the Salon in 1855 he returns, disillusioned, to the Netherlands. But he continues to heed the call of France. In Normandy, Johan Barthold Jongkind meets a young Claude Monet. Johan Barthold Jongkind is impressed by Monet’s style, especially his skies, moonlit nights, and Seine River scenes. Monet, in turn, considers Jongkind one of his greatest inspirations.
But Johan Barthold Jongkind ‘s personal life remains a rocky battle with alcoholism and frequent bouts of depression. In 1891, at age 71, Johan Barthold Jongkind dies in a psychiatric institution in La Côte Sainte-André, in south-eastern France.