BERNARDUS JOHANNES BLOMMERS (The Hague 1845 – The Hague 1914)
Feeding the Ducks (Depicting the Artist’s Wife Anna and Daughter Johanna)
signed on the towel in the middle right Blommers
oil on canvas
29 3/4 x 19 1/4 inches (73 x 48.2 cm.)
Anonymous sale, C.F. Roos & Co., Amsterdam, October 30, 1900, lot 11, illustrated, where purchased by Zegwaard Collection
Miss. A. C. van Zegwaard sale, Boussod, Valadon & Cie, The Hague, October 28, 1913, lot 6, illustrated
Anonymous sale, Van Marle & De Sille, Rotterdam, October 16, 1917, lot 22
L.J. Krüger Art Dealer, The Hague, 1919
Aug. Volz, The Hague
Estate of Aug. Volz sale, Frederick Muller & Cie, Amsterdam, April 15-21, 1947, lot 367, illustrated, where purchased by
Anonymous sale, S.J. Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, April 27-May 3, 1948, lot 197, illustrated
Anonymous sale, Frederick Muller & Cie, Amsterdam, May 30, 1961, lot 3, illustrated
Anonymous sale, S.J. Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, May 18-June 1, 1965, lot 33, illustrated
Private Collection, Florida, circa 1968 until the present time
De Prins, illustrated (as the property of Kunsthandel Th. Vlas, Amsterdam)
C.C.P. Marius, Dutch Painters of the 19th Century, Antiques Collectors’ Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1988, p. 176, illustrated
In his own lifetime Bernardus Johannes Blommers was one of the most famous painters in Holland and regarded as a leader of the Hague School. His parents were Anna Maria van Balen and Pieter Blommers. His father owned a printing business and Bernardus originally trained to be a lithographer. While working in the shop he took evening classes in painting at the Haags Academie and lessons at the studio of Christoffel Bisschop. The first painting he exhibited was Scheveningen Interior with Net Menders in 1865 at the Tentoonstelling van Levende Meesters (Exhibition of Living Masters), Amsterdam, where it was accorded a position of honor alongside a large beach scene by Josef Israëls. This led to a lifelong friendship between the two artists, with Israëls greatly influencing Blommers’ career. Blommers emulated Israëls in his choice of subject-matter, painting fishermen and farmers’ interiors, as well as seascape and dune landscapes that featured these groups.
In 1868 Blommers finished his studies and took a studio in The Hague with Willem Maris a friend from the Academy. Willem’s older brother Matthijs and Anton Mauve also often worked in the space. The same year Blommers won a gold medal for his Fishermen’s Children at The Hague Exhibition. In 1870 he visited Paris where he stayed with Jacob Maris, but was forced to return home by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. In 1871 he married Anna van der Toorn, a fish-seller from Scheveningen, who worked as his model and continued to appear in many of his paintings. Anton Mauve and Hendrik Willem Mesdag acted as the witnesses at their wedding. The marriage proved to be particularly happy and Blommers became the proud father of a large family. In 1874, after the birth of his daughter Johanna, the depiction of motherly love became a constant theme in his work as is evident in Feeding the Ducks. In 1882 his continued success allowed him to build a house in The Hague which he called Johanna after his eldest daughter. Within the house he fashioned a studio that recreated the interior of a fisherman’s cottage in which models could be easily posed. His scenes were mainly drawn from Scheveningen (as well as occasional visits to Zandvoort) until the turn of the century when Scheveningen became too fashionable a resort for Blommers’ taste. He then turned to the small fishing village of Katwijk for the authenticity he sought. There he built a house with two studios which he named for his youngest daughter – Villa Thérèse, with every autumn spent in Heeze, North Brabant. In these spots Blommers found the subject matter closest to his heart; the life of the fishing communities in the dunes, on the beaches and at home. In the later part of his career he became famous for his spontaneous renderings of children playing on the beach.
Blommers exhibited his work at home and abroad, winning medals at exhibitions in Amsterdam, Brussels, Boston, Chicago, The Hague, Munich, Paris, Philadelphia, Rotterdam and St. Louis. His artwork proved particularly popular in England, Scotland, America and Canada. Blommers’ work was so sought after that not unlike certain of today’s contemporary artists he had the unusual experience of having his paintings sold before they were painted. In 1904 Blommers, accompanied by his wife and daughter Johanna, visited the United States. In Philadelphia the artist was made an honorary member of the Art Club, and there Thomas Eakins painted his portrait which now hangs in the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio. In Philadelphia he sold a painting for the then astronomical sum of $6,000, but perhaps the most notable event was the invitation to the White House where the family was received by President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1914 Blommers returned to the United States having been chosen by the Dutch government to paint a portrait of Andrew Carnegie in appreciation of his gift to the Nation of the Peace Palace (Vredespaleis), The Hague where the painting now hangs.
At home in 1911 he was elected president of the Hollandsche Teeken-Maatschappij (Dutch Drawing Society). He was further responsible for leading a committee that succeeded in establishing a Dutch pavilion at the Venice Biennale. From the Netherlands he received the decoration of the Lion d’Or of the first order, the decoration of the Order of Leopold from Belgium, and the Orders of Saint Michel and the Crown from Bavaria. In Holland his paintings formed part of the collections of the museums in Amsterdam, Dordrecht, Haarlem, The Hague, Heino, Katwijk, Otterlo, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Elsewhere these museums include Boston, Glasgow, Munich, St. Louis, Williamstown and Worcester.
Feeding the Ducks is an early work in which Blommers used his wife Anna and daughter Johanna as models. Judging by the age of his daughter Johanna it must have been executed circa 1875-1876. At this point his emulation of seventeenth century prototypes is clear. Sunlight shimmers across the canvas bathing the two figures in dazzling light, further accentuated by the harmonious balance of the contrasting shadows. Saturated in warm colors Blommers’ heavily laden brush serves to enrich this simple scene. Clothed in the traditional garb of the local fisherfolk a young mother lifting a bucket stands in front of a cottage accompanied by her daughter alongside a canal. The cottage’s double-dutch doors, multi-paned window and crumbling red tiled roof with dormer all add to the scene’s rusticity. A rickety fence surrounds the property on which cloths have been left to dry, one embellished with the artist’s signature. A duck and her three ducklings, who serve to underline the composition’s theme of motherly love, swim towards the step attracted by the motioning child. A glimpse of the village is visible through the trees on the left-hand side. An ordinary moment in a family’s daily routine is captured and immortalized, but it is the obvious joy Blommers found within his own family that serves to make the work so memorable.
We are indebted to Charles Dumas of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague for his invaluable assistance in the research of this entry.
 Biographical information taken from Dr. Jos. De Gruyter, “B.J. Blommers” in De Haagse School, volume 1, Rotterdam, 1968-69, p. 110; John Sillevis, “Bernard Blommers” in The Hague School, Dutch Masters of the 19th Century, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London and traveling, 1983, pp. 167-168; and Anne Taback, “Bernardus Johannes Blommers” in The Hague School Book, Waanders, Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag, c. 2004, pp. 333, 335.
 Biographical information taken from John Sillevis, op. cit., p. 167; Tiny de Liefde-van Brakel, B.J. Blommers, 1845-1914, exhibition catalogue, Stichting Katwijks Museum, Katwijk aan Zee, May 29-September 25, 1993, pp. 67-68; and Anne Tabak, op. cit., pp. 335, 337.
 “Dutch Artist, Here to Paint Carnegie, Talks on Art”, The New York Times, April 14, 1912.
 Ronald de Leeuw, “Introduction” The Hague School Book, op. cit., pp. 9, 29; Anne Taback, op. cit., p. 338.
 Charles Dumas, “Art Dealers and Collectors” in The Hague School, Dutch Masters of the 19th Century, op. cit., p. 125.
 Anne Taback, op. cit., p. 338.
 New York Times, April 14, 1912, op. cit..
 Anne Taback, op. cit., p. 338.
 New York Times, April 14, 1912, op. cit..
 This painting was reproduced in the weekly magazine De Prins (op. cit.) where the figures were identified as the artist’s wife Anna and his eldest daughter Johanna who is further revealed as now Mrs. Dr. Hettinga Tromp. She married the artist Jan Zoetelief Tromp (1872-1947) who worked in the style of the Hague School and was heavily influenced by his father-in-law.