Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


FREDERIK HENDRIK KAEMMERER (The Hague 1839 – Paris 1902)

Autumn Leaves

signed F. H. Kaemmerer and inscribed a Monsieur AVERY in the lower right

oil on canvas

15 7/8 x 10 inches          (40 x 25.4 cm.)


Private Collection, Connecticut, 1930s-1940s and thus by descent in the family until the present time



Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, The Dutch in Paris 1789–1914, October 13, 2017 – January 7, 2018, and traveling to Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, February 6, 2018 – May 13, 2018, no. 120



Mayken Jonkman, ed., The Dutch in Paris 1789–1914, THOTH Publishers, Bussum, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2017, p. 135, no. 120, illustrated in color


It is fall in the mid-1880s. A raven-haired lovely young woman is seated in profile backed by a wall of autumnal leaves. She wears a fashionable beige bonnet decked with white and red plumes, a gold hoop earring, and black coat with a matching cascading scarf. She smiles faintly as if amused by a private rumination. Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer has signed the painting below the inscription dedicated to Monsieur Avery.

Kaemmerer began his studies at the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten in The Hague and was also a pupil of Salomon Leonardus Verveer from 1855-1865.[1] He began as a landscapist working alongside such compatriots as Bernardus Blommers, Anton Mauve as well as the Maris brothers Willem, Jacob and Matthijs, en plein air in Oosterbeek the so-called “Barbizon of Holland”.[2] His Beach at Scheveningen in the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, is representative of this period. In 1865 Kaemmerer received a contract from the famed art gallery Goupil & Cie in Paris. He also enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and entered Jean-Léon Gerome’s studio. In Paris from 1866-1879 Kaemmerer intermittently shared a studio with David Adolphe Constant Artz and Jacob Maris, but their artistic paths soon diverged as Kaemmerer turned his attention to painting amusing genre pieces set in the period of the Directoire.[3]

For four years from November 1795 to November 1799 between the Reign of Terror and Napoleon Bonaparte taking control of France a new government set up by the Constitution called the Directoire was established.[4] It was a time characterized by extravagance and the continuous pursuit of pleasure, particularly among the young. A class of nouveau riches emerged whose wealth had been built on the selling of arms, money lending and wild speculation whose most obvious manifestation could be seen in the ostentatiousness of their dress.[5] 

Above all else it is this trait that Kaemmerer featured in his work, having built up an extensive collection of the era’s costumes and textiles. Often depicted were the period’s favorite pastimes – carnivals, balls, weddings and christenings. In so doing he was catering to the era’s most popular artistic subject – the costume picture, as well as fulfilling his obligation to Goupil. In most cases the firm held the publication rights for all artists under contract, and was thus ensured that their profit would be twofold. First came the outright selling of the piece and second the world-wide distribution of its engraving. The benefit to Kaemmerer also doubled in extra profits and name recognition.[6]

The artist first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1870. In the 1874 Salon he was awarded a third class medal for a magnificent view of an international gathering of the period’s fashionably attired on The Beach at Scheveningen, Holland. The painting was later sold by Goupil’s New York partner Michael Knoedler to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C..[7] In 1887 a small painting of a Young Woman was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and another diminutive canvas titled A Woman in Winter Dress by the Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts. Kaemmerer won the gold medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889, the same year he was made a Chevalier of the Legion d’honneur.[8]

A. L. H. Obreen in his 1899 article on Kaemmerer stated, “Now the rich American railway King and the ranch potentate or the Chicago millionaire pay enormous prices for these genre paintings...”.[9] William H. Vanderbilt had purchased his debut piece in the 1870 Salon Merveilleuses sous le Directoire, and in the ensuing years other millionaires such as William Rockefeller, John Jacob Astor and Jay Gould followed suit. This was largely due to the efforts of Michael Knoedler until his death in 1878 and his friend/ rival Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), both regarded as among the most important dealers of contemporary French painting in New York.[10] Avery was not only a founder but a lifelong trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was further responsible for the formation of numerous important nineteenth century painting collections across America. From 1871-1882 every spring through fall Avery set out on purchasing trips, dividing his time among London, Paris, the Low Countries and Germany, with occasional excursions through Switzerland, Austria and northern Italy. The focal point each year was the Parisian Salon. Avery’s diary from this period records his relationship with Kaemmerer.
Madeleine Fidell Beaufort in the introduction to Avery’s The diaries states that Kaemmerer’s paintings entered American collections through Avery’s efforts.[11] From 1871 onwards he acquired the painter’s works as well as made numerous visits to his studio and exchanged letters. In 1878 Avery noted buying a rug that was sent to Kaemmerer as a gift.[12] In 1882 Avery purchased his Salon entry The Toast under the Arbor and Champlin & Perkins records his 1884 acquisition of Kaemmerer’s The Swing.[13] It was also in the 1880s that Avery began winding down his activities, and by 1888 his son Samuel Putnam Avery, Jr. (1847-1920) had taken over the daily operation of the New York gallery. In 1904 upon Avery’s death his son inherited the collection. By 1909 Avery, Jr. had moved to Hartford, Connecticut. After his death in 1920 much of the collection was given to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York and the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford where the Avery Wing was opened in 1934.[14] Other artworks and objects, particularly those of a more personal nature, were inherited by Avery’s nieces Emma Parke Avery Welcher, Alice Lee Welcher and Amy Ogden Welcher all of whom resided in Hartford.[15] Sometime between the 1930s to the 1940s Autumn Leaves assuredly passed from one of their collections to the Hartford area family that owned it from then until 2014.

So beautifully rendered, Autumn Leaves must have been painted in homage to the artist’s dealer and friend Samuel Putnam Avery, Sr.. The inscription is telltale as Avery’s name has been boldly painted in capital letters that are of almost equal measure to that of Kaemmerer’s. Although in adherence to a size typical for the artist, the style is revelatory, probably best summarized by Gérald Schurr and Pierre Cabanne’s 2008 entry on the painter, “sa manière s’élargit, son inspiration se transforme et certaines toiles, des paysages surtout, acquièrent la liberté de touche et les couleurs claires de l’impressionnisme” (inspired, his style became freer and transformed in certain works, particularly landscapes, to a looser manner and the brighter colors of the Impressionists).[16] As few pictures exist within the artist’s oeuvre that match this description, Autumn Leaves constitutes a rare gem. One explanation could be that Kaemmerer was a victim of his own success given the immense and sustained popularity of his Directoire subjects. Possibly his audience was unwilling to accept him as a purveyor of contemporary life. Whatever the reason, Kaemmerer felt no such restriction in the execution of this intimate work. Although the identity of the woman portrayed is unknown, the image does not feel as if it was randomly chosen. In all likelihood the significance of the sitter will remain a mystery. Autumn Leaves can be viewed as a fitting testimonial to the bond between Kaemmerer described as “one of the most popular painters...working in the French Capital”[17] and Avery called “a pioneer, a man whose discrimination and reputation were without equal for more than a generation”[18], as well as a summation of the period in which it was painted so aptly titled the Belle Époque.




[1] Pieter A. Scheen, “Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer” in Lexikon Nederlandse Beeldende Kunstenaars 1750-1880, Uitgeverij Pieter A. Scheen BV, ’s-Gravenhage, 1981, p. 257; and Frederick Hendrik Kaemmerer, RKD, Netherlands Institute of Art History website.

[2] John Sillevis, “Romanticism and Realism” in The Hague School, Dutch Masters of the 19th Century, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London & traveling, 1983, pp. 56, 63.

[3] Ibid, pp. 64, 157.

[4] “Directoire”, Encyclopedia Britannica website.

[5] Alfred Allinson, The Days of the Directoire, John Lane Company, London, 1910, pp. 114-115, 120.

[6] A. L. H. Obreen, “F. H. Kaemmerer” in Dutch Painters of the Nineteenth Century, Sampson, Low, Marston & Company Limited, 1899, p. 233; and De Courcy E. McIntosh, “Goupil’s Album: Marketing Salon Painting in the Late Nineteenth Century” in Twenty-First Century Perspectives on Nineteenth Century Art, Rosemont Publishing, Printing Corp., Danvers, MA., 2008, pp. 77-78.

[7] Corcoran Gallery of Art, Sotheby’s, New York, October 27, 1988, lot 88 where the work was sold for $1,200,000.; and De Courcy E. McIntosh, op. cit., p. 81.

[8] E. Bénézit, “Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer” in Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, volume 6, Librairie Grund, Paris, p. 142.

[9] A. L. H. Obreen, op. cit., p. 232.

[10]  John Denison Champlin, Jr. & Charles C. Perkins, eds., “Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer” in Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings, volume II, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1900, p. 370; and De Courcy E. McIntosh, op. cit., p. 78.

[11]  Madeleine Fidell Beaufort, ed., The diaries, 1871-1882 of Samuel P. Avery, art dealer, Arno Press, New York, 1979, pp. 1, 250, 294, 577, 716.

[12]  Madeleine Fidell Beaufort, op. cit., pp. XXXI, IX; and Malcolm Goldstein, Landscape with Figures, A History of Art Dealing in the United States, pp. 45-46, 52.

[13]  The Art Journal, Virtue and Company, London, 1882, p. 223; and Champlin & Perkins, op. cit., p. 370.

[14]  John R. Totten, “Samuel Putnam Avery” in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, volume LII, no. 1, New York, January, 1921, pp. 1-2; and Property of the Wadsworth Atheneum Art Museum, Samuel P. Avery, Christie’s, New York, October 28, 2003, unpaginated.

[15]  Emma Parke Avery Welcher correspondence 1920-1930, Connecticut Historical Society website; and Button Island, Ferrisburgh, Vermont, Vermont Historical Society, Barre, website (Button Island was off the coast of Vermont and owned by Samuel Putnam Avery, Jr.).

[16]  Gérald Schurr & Pierre Cabanne, “Hendrik Kaemmerer” in Dictionnaire des Petits Maîtres de la peintres (1820-1920), Les Editions de l’Amateur, Paris, 2008, p. 412.

[17]  Arthur F. Phillips, “F. H. Kaemmerer”, The Art Record, volume III, no. 45, May, 1902, p. 26.

[18]  Madeleine Fidell Beaufort, op. cit., p. VII.

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