Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


JACOB HENRICUS MARIS (The Hague 1837 – Karlsbad 1899)

A River Landscape with Farm Houses

signed J. Maris in the lower left

oil on canvas

23 x 29 inches             (58.4 x 73.7 cm.)


Hon. Senator George A. Cox, Toronto, by 1902 until 1914, and thus by inheritance to

Mr. & Mrs. Herbert Coplin Cox, Oakville, Ontario, until 1926 when donated to

The Art Gallery of Toronto, Toronto, Canada(name changed in 1966) to

Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada, until deaccessioned in 2015

“Property of the Art Gallery of Ontario,” Christie’s, New York, June 23, 2015, lot 159



(presumably) Toronto, Women’s Art Association of Canada, Exhibition of Dutch and Scotch Pictures, March 10-22, 1902, no. 25 (from the collection of the Hon. G.A. Cox)

Toronto, The Art Museum of Toronto, The Second Exhibition, November 24 - December 16, 1909, no. 142 (from the collection of the Hon. Senator Cox)

Toronto, The Art Gallery of Toronto, The Inaugural Exhibition, January 29 - February 28, 1926, no. 13 (Cox Collection)

Regina, Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, Piet Mondrian and The Hague School of Landscape Painting, October 10 - November 10, 1969, no. 18, also shown at Edmonton, Edmonton Art Gallery, December 3-28, 1969

Montréal, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, Piet Mondrian et l’Ecole de La Haye, February 13 – March 15, 1970, no. 18

Owen Sound, Ontario, Tom Thomson Memorial Gallery and Museum of Fine Arts, The Holland Liberation Remembrance Exhibition, May 6-29, 1970

Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, The Hague School, Collecting in Canada at the Turn of the Century, May 7-June 26, 1983, no. 20, also shown at St. Catharines, Ontario, Rodman Hall Arts Centre, Brock University, September 16 - October 9, 1983; Sudbury, Ontario, Laurentian University Museum & Arts Centre, October 26 – November 20, 1983; Peterborough, Art Gallery of Peterborough, March 23 - April 15, 1984; Kingston, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, April 27 – May 27, 1984; and Halifax, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, June 14 – July 15, 1984



(presumably) Catalogue of Special Exhibition of Dutch and Scotch Pictures, Women’s Art Association of Canada, Toronto, 1902, no. 25, unpaginated

G. A. Reid, The Second Exhibition; Catalogue of a Loan Collection of paintings of the English, old Dutch, modern Dutch, French and other European Schools, The Art Museum of Toronto, Toronto, 1909, p. 120, no. 142

Catalogue of Inaugural Exhibition, The Art Gallery of Toronto, Toronto, 1926, no. 13, p. 17

Nancy E. Dillow, Piet Mondrian and the Hague School of Landscape Painting, Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, 1969, no. 18, pp. 11, 23, illustrated

Nancy E. Dillow, Piet Mondrian et l’Ecole de la Haye, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, Montréal, 1970, no. 18, unpaginated

W. J. Withrow, “Preface” in The Hague School, Collecting in Canada at the Turn of the Century, exhibition catalog, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1983, p. 7

Marta H. Hurdalek, The Hague School, Collecting in Canada at the Turn of the Century, exhibition catalog, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1983, no. 20, pp. 10, 19, 39, illustrated


G. Hermine Marius in her 1909 book, Dutch Painting in the Nineteenth Century, declared,

“If we mention not only Vermeer, but also Rembrandt and Jacob Maris in one breath, we must remember that they who shout, ‘Rembrandt! Rembrandt!’ the loudest, without being impressed by Jacob Maris’ greatness would certainly have belonged to those who, in Rembrandt’s own day, most violently reviled him, or, for lack of understanding, denied him.”[1]

At this point Jacob Maris had long been regarded as “the greatest Dutch painter of his time”.[2]

Mattheus Maris and Hendrika Bloemert had three sons, Jacob, Matthijs and Willem, all of whom became artists. Jacob was the eldest who began his studies with Johannes Stroebel at the age of twelve. A year later he took drawing lessons at the Hague Academy with Jacobus van den Berg, He next apprenticed in the studio of Huib van Hove, who specialized in genre and interior scenes. In 1854 Maris followed Hove to Antwerp, which also was the first year he exhibited at the Tentoonstelling van Levende Meesters (Exhibition of Living Masters). At the Academy, he attended evening classes taught by Nicaise de Keyser. In 1855 his brother Matthijs joined him and shared a studio. By 1857 he had returned to The Hague where he would remain until 1865, when he moved to Paris. There he worked for a few months in the studio of Antoine-Auguste-Ernest Hébert. In 1867 Maris married Catharina Hendrika Horn. In 1871, following the Franco-Prussian War, Maris permanently settled in The Hague.[3]

Until 1870 the majority of Maris’ output had been devoted to genre scenes. Exposed to the Barbizon School, Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, and Jules Jacques Veyrassat while in France, Maris began to focus more on landscapes. From 1872 onwards these works were viewed as “giving a new direction to Dutch painting by the strength of his construction, emphatic, simplified color, dramatic lighting, and above all, his broad, sure handling of paint”.[4] By concentrating on the Dutch countryside with views of mills, rivers, beaches, moonlit nights, and cityscapes, his works achieved great popularity and Maris came to be regarded as one of the leaders of the Hague School.[5] A River Landscape with Farm Houses is a perfect example of the reason he scaled such heights.

Marta H. Hurdalek has dated our painting to the late 1870s and sees in its low horizon, thinly drawn branches of willow trees, and contours of the farm buildings, a reflection of the French Barbizon painter Charles - François Daubigny.[6] Although the comment is valid, Daubigny can only be viewed as a starting point for Maris’ ingenious creativity as what he paints is not a topographical rendering but an atmospheric impression. A river landscape is dominated by the silvery mists of a clouded sky. Also gray in tonality, the water diagonally cuts the composition in half with lush green banks filled with thatched houses and barren trees. Two figures work on a moored boat while birds soar overhead. The paint has been vigorously thrust onto the canvas in jabs of greens, browns, and grays. A strong color accent is provided by the blue jacket of the bent figure in the boat, serving to focus the viewer’s eye to the center of the composition, aided by bands of pure white paint that leapfrog down the middle. The dense, cool colors further converge to convey the sense of overall dampness. Painted in the first decade of Maris discovering his true source of inspiration, the impact of A River Landscape with Farm Houses remains as fresh and modern as when it was executed.

The first recorded owner of the work was the Hon. Senator George A. Cox (1840-1914), known as “the industrial genius of Ontario”.  He was the president of Midland Railway and the insurance company Canada Life. In 1896 Lord Aberdeen appointed him to the Senate.[7] Cox belonged to a new group of wealthy entrepreneurs that emerged in Canada by the late 1870s due to a rapidly changing economy and increased exports, aided by the development of the transcontinental railways. Among this group, the collecting of Hague School pictures signaled one’s arrival into the cultural elite. So revered was the painter in Canada that, upon Maris’ death in 1899, the Art Association of Montreal felt compelled to organize a Special Loan Exhibition dedicated to the three Maris brothers the following year. The show featured thirty-five paintings by Jacob, four by Matthijs, and nine by Willem. In 1902 under the aegis of Lady Aberdeen, an Exhibition of Dutch and Scotch Painters took place in Toronto; it included sixty-three modern Dutch paintings as well as, presumably, Cox’s loan of the Maris (the catalog stated only the artist’s name and label of Landscape, minus medium and dimensions). In 1909 Cox lent the Maris to The Second Exhibition of The Art Museum of Toronto. Upon his death in 1914 the Maris passed to his son Herbert Coplin Cox. In 1926 Herbert and his wife donated the Maris along with twenty-one other paintings from his father’s collection to The Art Gallery of Toronto.[8] These paintings became known as the Cox Collection and were hung as a group in the newly built east rotunda, as well as being featured in the museum’s 1926 show The Inaugural Exhibition.[9]

From 1969 to 1970 Maris’ landscape was part of the impressive exhibition Piet Mondrian and The Hague School which included loans from the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk, Kröller-Muller, Gemeentemuseum, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art among others, that traveled from Regina, to Edmonton and finally Montreal. In May, 1970, it was part of a special show at Owen Sound, Ontario, The Holland Liberation Remembrance Exhibition. This was followed in 1983-1984 by The Hague School, Collecting in Canada at the Turn of the Century exhibition, mounted at six consecutive institutions, which showcased the wealth of Hague School works in private Canadian collections and museums. In the catalog Marta H. Hurdalek praised this painting by simply describing it as “a most typical Hague School landscape”.[10] In 2015 the Art Gallery of Ontario (formerly The Art Gallery of Toronto until the name was changed in 1966) deaccessioned the Maris to fund new purchases. By this point almost its entire record of provenance, exhibitions, and publications had been lost. Such an iconic work of the Hague School as Maris’ A River Landscape with Farm Houses deserved resurrection. After reconstructing its history, we are pleased to return this work to the market after an absence of over one hundred years.



[1] G. Hermine Marius, Dutch Painting in the Nineteenth Century, Alexander Moring Limited, London, 1908, p. 105.

[2] Dr. Jos de Gruyter, “Jacob Maris” in De Haagse School, volume II, Lemniscaat, Rotterdam, 1968, p. 29.

[3] Biographical information taken from Ronald de Leeuw, “Jacob Maris” in The Hague School, Dutch Masters of the 19th Century, exhibition catalog, Royal Academy of Arts, London, & traveling, 1983, p. 201; and Wiepke Loos, “Jacob Maris” in Breitner and his age, Paintings from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Amsterdam, 1995, p. 58.

[4] Dr. Jos de Gruyter, op. cit., p. 30.

[5] Ibid; and Marta H. Hurdalek, op. cit., p. 37.

[6] Marta H. Hurdalek, op. cit., p. 10.

[7] “Death of Senator G.A. Cox of Canada” in The Insurance Field (Life Edition), volume 29, January 23, 1914, p. 5.

[8] Marta H. Hurdalek, op. cit., pp. 13, 15, 19.

[9] Catalogue of Inaugural Exhibition, op. cit., p 15.

[10] Marta H. Hurdalek, op. cit., p. 10. 

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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