Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


LUDOLF BACKHUYSEN (Emden 1630 – Amsterdam 1708)

 A Dune Landscape

signed L. Bakh. in the lower left

oil on canvas

21 7/16 x 25 ½ inches          (55 x 68 cm.)


Private Collection, The Netherlands


Ludolf Backhuysen began his career in 1649 working as a calligrapher for the Bartolotti trading house in Amsterdam. According to Arnold Houbraken he learned to paint from the marine artists Hendrick Jacobsz. Dubbels and Allaert van Everdingen. [1] He did not join the Amsterdam painter’s guild until 1663, but shortly thereafter his fame as a marine painter was established. When Willem van de Velde I and II moved to England in 1672, Backhuysen became the leading marine painter in The Netherlands. Important commissions followed. Houbraken recorded that Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany; Frederick I of Prussia, Elector of Saxony; and Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia all visited his studio. Within his paintings, Backhuysen emphasized “the perpetually changing climate and the magnificent skies of The Netherlands. Much of his work, moreover, glorified Amsterdam and the mercantile trade that made it great.” After 1680 his colors and contours softened, of which our A Dune Landscape is an excellent example. [2]

His students included Pieter Coopse, Jan Dubbels, Michiel Maddersteeg, Onno Onnesz., Gerrit Pompe, Jan Claesz Rietschoof and Abraham Storck. [3] The number of museums that incorporated his painting into their permanent collections is remarkable. They include the museums of Amsterdam; Antwerp; Apeldoorn; Berlin; Boston; Braunschweig; Bremen; Brussels; Bucharest; Chantilly; Cleveland; Cologne; Copenhagen; Dresden; Dublin; Dulwich; Hamburg; The Hague; Hartford; Heidelberg; Houston; Hull, England; Geneva; Indianapolis; Karlsruhe; Leipzig; Lille; London; Manchester, England; Manchester, New Hampshire; Minneapolis; Moscow; Munich; Oberschleissheim; Paris; Riga; Rotterdam; Schwerin; Sneek; Stuttgart; Toledo, Ohio; Vienna; Washington, D.C.; Weimar; and Winterthur, Switzerland.

Gerlinde de Beer, who wrote the catalogue raisonné on Backhuysen, on November 6, 1997 issued a certificate of authenticity on this painting in which she referred to it as a late work. Now lost, the certificate is documented in the entry on this painting in the Rijksbureau voor Kunthistorischie Documentatie, The Hague databank no. 201436. Done in his maturity, this congenial view of life along the oceanfront defines the elements that the artist chose to emphasize at this point. Divisional lines of sun, clouds, water and sand subtly blend in an atmospheric mix to portray the essence of Holland. Fisherfolk and patricians populate the dunes, awaiting the incoming ships, as all their livelihoods are dependent upon them, as similarly were the fortunes of Holland.

[1] Arnold Houbraken compiled from 1718 – 1721 the first comprehensive survey of Dutch painting from the Golden Age in De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders en schilderessen.

[2] Biographical information taken from B.P.J Broos “Ludolf Backhiuzen” in The Grove Dictionary of Art, From Rembrandt to Vermeer, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2000, pp. 12 – 13; and “Ludolf Bakhiuzen” on (RKD Explore) website.

[3] “Ludolf Backhiuzen” on, op.cit.


Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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