JACOB SIMON HENDRIK KEVER (Amsterdam 1854 – Laren 1922)
signed in the lower right Kever
watercolor on paper
19 3/16 x 17 1/8 inches (492 x 437mm.)
Dr. Katherine Kromm Merritt, Stamford, Connecticut, until circa 1990, from whom acquired by
Private Collection, Vinalhaven, Maine, until 2015
In the warm morning glow of a country kitchen, a young boy entertains his little sister seated in a high chair. In return her adoring glance speaks volumes. The dramatic angling of the baby’s high chair, whose design harks back to the seventeenth century, animates the scene. Through an economy of means and a limited palette of largely brown and orange, Jacob Simon Hendrik Kever captures the richness of the moment and its idyllic rusticity.
Josef Israels was the first to encourage Kever to study painting. He began his training at the Koninklijke Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam, in 1869, studying with Petrus Franciscus Greive until 1872. From 1874 - 1875 he attended the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, also in Amsterdam. From 1878-1879 under the tutelage of Charles Verlat he was enrolled in the Koninklijke Acaemie voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp. His subjects included portraits, cityscapes, landscapes, flowers, genre and interior scenes in watercolors, oils, and etchings. Throughout his career he worked in Blaricum, Nunspeet, the province of North Brabant and Eemnes. Although not technically considered a member of the Laren School he also lived there from 1877-1879 and again in 1905-1922. He further maintained an apartment in Amsterdam near the Oosterpark where he resided during the winter months. The area must have constituted somewhat of an artist’s community as his neighbors were Geo Poggenbeek, Nicolaas Bastert and later Willem Witsen, Isaac Israels, and George Hendrik Breitner. Painting sojourns were made to the forest of Fontainebleau and the Harz Mountains. He was a member of Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam. Until at least 1910 he exhibited at shows in Arnhem, Amsterdam, The Hague, Munich, Paris, Rotterdam, St. Louis, and Venice, winning several gold and silver medals. Kever’s paintings formed part of the permanent collections of the museums of Albany, Amsterdam, Brooklyn, Brussels, Dordrecht, Haarlem, The Hague, Heino, Kampen, Laren, Middelburg, and Toledo, Ohio.
It was scenes such as this depicting Dutch cottage interiors filled with sunlight that brought Kever lasting fame. The young boy’s attire confirms the setting as the Gooi region where Laren is located. Although inspired by Israels, who is credited for “discovering” Laren, it would be Albert Neuhuys’ work that ultimately had the strongest impact on Kever and who is regarded as “the true founder of the Laren School”. By the end of the nineteenth century a large art colony had formed in the village. In 1903 an anonymous writer for the Toledo Daily Blade newspaper described Laren’s appeal, “Holland, like the rest of the world is gradually changing, and much of the old and picturesque is passing away. The old stone floors are being supplanted by wooden ones and the great fire places are falling into disuse through the introduction of crude and inartistic cast-iron stoves. However Laren has been lightly touched by the hand of time, and while there have been some changes to conform with modern times, they are in the main but trivial and consequently it is an ideal spot for the artist”. The population consisted of weavers, laborers, and sheep farmers, living in dwellings whose secluded and serene atmosphere fascinated artists. Besides Neuhuys, Lammert van der Tonge, Willy Sluiter, Lion Schulman, and Jacob Dooijewaard were among other artists working in the area.
Neuhuys concentrated on cottage interiors that featured the traditional lifestyle of the village. Lacking Josef Israels’ penchant for drama, his scenes are ones of contentment. In what has been described as a “frankness of manner” his handling is looser and more atmospheric. Kever followed Neuhuys’ lead but employed a more vivid palette. The immediacy of the imagery of works such as Brotherly Love stems from the medium. At his best in watercolor, the reason for this was clarified in an exhibition catalog devoted to Kever by Gebroeders Binger of Amsterdam. “How many times he made, under the superior impression of some sublime subject, an excellent and successful study or sketch, being filled with a feverish desire to give back what he had seen as sensitive and as complete as possible – but how many times there followed for the artist so discouraging disappointment that gradually during the working up to a picture, the superior qualities of the original study were lost”. What further differentiated Kever from Neuhuys was a lack of sentimentality. Contemporary viewers felt “the children of his brush are real children, lovingly and yet realistically rendered” and this is exactly why Kever’s Brotherly Love resonates today. Basked in warm colors, devoid of pretense while stripped to its emotional core, it is a profound portrayal of innocence.
 Biographical information taken from Dr. Ulrich Thieme & Dr. Felix Becker, “Jacobus Simon Hendrik Kever” in Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler, Veb E.A. Seeman Verlag, Leipzig, volume XX, 1940, p. 277; “Jacob Simon Hendrik Kever” in The Toledo Museum of Art, European Paintings, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976, p. 88; Pieter A. Scheen, “Jacob Simon Hendrik Kever” in Lexikon Nederlandse Beeldende Kunstenaars 1750-1880, Uitgeverij Pieter A. Scheen BV,’s-Gravenhage, 1981, p. 266; and “Jacob Simon Hendrik Kever” on rkd.nl (RKD Explore) website.
 Anja Frenkel, “Jacob Simon Hendrik Kever” in 25 Jaar Kunsthandel R Polak, exhibition catalog, Panorama Mesdag, The Hague, May 18-June 17, 2001, p. 164.
 John Sillevis, “The Years of Fame” in The Hague School, Dutch Masters of the 19th Century, exhibition catalog, Royal Academy of Arts, London, & traveling, 1983, p. 95; John Sillevis, “Albert Neuhuys” in The Hague School, op. cit., p. 263; and Geraldine Norman ed; Dutch Painters of the 19th Century, Marius, Antique Collectors Club, Woodbridge, 1988, p. 199.
 Annette Stott, Holland Mania, The Overlook Press, 1998, p. 52.
 Elizabeth W. Champney, “Modern Dutch Painters” in The Century Magazine, volume LVI, The Century Co., New York, 1898, p. 404; and John Sillevis, “Albert Neuhuys” in The Hague School, op. cit., p. 264.
 Tentoonstelling van Werken door J.S.H. Kever, exhibition catalog, Gebroeders Binger, Amsterdam, (not dated but published during the artist’s lifetime), unpaginated.
 Elizabeth W. Champney, op. cit., p. 405.