ANTON MAUVE (Zaandam 1838 – Arnhem 1888)
Three Cows in a Meadow
signed A. Mauve F. in the lower right
oil on panel
10 x 15 ½ inches (25.3 x 39.3 cm.)
Private Collection, Santa Barbara, California, until 2001
Norma & Julien Redelé, Maryland, until 2015
Easton, Maryland, Academy Art Museum, Mesdag to Mondrian: Dutch Art from the Redelé Collection, June 2 – September 30, 2013
No words could better express the view held in regard to Anton Mauve than those written by Mrs. Arthur Bell shortly after his untimely passing:
“Anton Mauve whose death a few years ago was mourned in Holland as a national calamity, takes the highest rank as a painter of landscape with sheep and cattle. His poetic compositions rival in truth of effect and refinement of sentiment those of Corot and Cazin, whilst in some of them there is a pathos as deep as that of Millet, for whom he had a most intense admiration. No modern artist had rendered more faithfully than Mauve the silvery haze veiling the low lying pastures and dunes of the Netherlands; no painter had entered more truly into the life of the sheep-fold and of the cattle paddock, or realized more forcibly the interdependence of men and animals with nature. ... His works are true lyrics of the earth.”
Mauve began his studies in Haarlem with the animal painter Pieter Frederick van Os from 1854-1857 and in 1858 with Wouterus Verschuur, famous for his paintings of horses. The summer of 1858 was spent with the painter Paul Gabriël in Oosterbeek, and proved to be the first of many visits. In Oosterbeek, called the Dutch Barbizon, he received further instruction from Johannes Bilders, who instilled in Mauve a deep appreciation of nature as he began to paint outdoors. Here was where he also formed a lasting bond with the artist Willem Maris, influenced by his brushwork, coloration, and most importantly his love of cows.
Beginning in 1865, Mauve moved constantly from Amsterdam, to Haarlem, The Hague, Scheveningen, Oosterbeek, Renkum, Wezep, Drenthe, Alkmaar, and Dordrecht, until 1871 when he took a studio in The Hague. In 1874 he married Ariette Sophia Jeannette Carbentus, a cousin of Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh spent three weeks in Mauve’s studio at the start of his career, and although this did not work out, always held the utmost esteem for the painter. In 1876 Mauve founded the Hollandsche Teeken-Maatschappij (Dutch Drawing Society) with Willem Maris and Hendrik Mesdag. The same year the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam purchased Mauve’s Cows in the Shade, marking his first sale to a Dutch museum.
By the mid-1880s The Hague’s semi-rural environment of meadows, polders, waterways, dunes, and woods had begun to give way to an increasing urbanization. This forced Mauve to seek new grounds and ultimately, by 1885, to settle in Laren. Here his subject matter expanded to include more depictions of laboring peasants. This had always been an interest, initially sparked by his French contemporaries of the Barbizon School, notably Jules Bastien-Lepage and Jean François Millet. Such subjects were now enhanced by his surroundings. These works became so popular, particularly in the United States, that American artists flocked to Laren to paint “Mauves.” An international art colony took root and the area became a tourist destination, which initiated the railway coming to Laren.
Sadly, in 1888, at the age of fifty, Mauve suffered a fatal heart attack. Although his fame was international and his art highly prized, his early demise served to further enhance the value put upon his works. An astonishing example occurred at the auction of the renowned modern Dutch art collection of Joseph Jefferson in New York where Mauve’s The Return of the Flock was purchased by American dealers Scott & Fowles for $42,250 on April 27, 1906! His remarkable influence and sustained legacy are borne out by the fact that his works can be found in numerous museums throughout the world.
In what must be an early work, dating from Mauve’s time in Oosterbeek, three cows are seen resting along a fence. They are the central focus of the composition and a breed typical of the region. As this panel so clearly demonstrates, Mauve had discovered his muse. As marvelously stated by the artist’s first biographer, A.C. Loffelt, “How beautiful is the glitter of the checkered light on the emerald grass – how splendid the sun’s reflections upon the sleek hides of his black-and-white cow. The robe of an empress could not be more resplendent than the hides of Dutch cattle in the sunlight.” In a composition equally split between sky and land these cows are illuminated by intense sunlight yet dwell under clouds that have begun to darken. The small scrub of trees to their left is an element often included in these early compositions. In the background a sailboat floats on calm waters with a shoreline discernable in the distance. Vigorous brush strokes define this sympathetic rendering of cattle, earth, water, and air, a metaphor for the essence of Holland. Mauve’s love for his homeland was the overriding consistent and unifying factor in all of his works; perhaps best summarized by Josef Israëls at his graveside.
“And where shall we find another Mauve? The void he has left behind will probably never be filled. There is no one to step into his place. I have lost a friend, but the country has lost an artist.”
 Mrs. Arthur Bell, “Anton Mauve” in Representative Painters of the XIXth Century, Sampson Low, Marston & Company, London, 1899, p. 189.
 Biographical information taken from Dr. Jos de Gruyter, “Anton Mauve” in De Haagse School, volume 2, Lemniscaat, Rotterdam, 1968-1969, p. 71; Ronald de Leeuw, “Anton Mauve” in The Hague School, Dutch Masters of the 19th Century, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London, & traveling, 1983, p. 233; and Wiepke Loos, “Anton Mauve” in Breitner and his age, Paintings from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam 1880-1900, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1995, p. 64.
 Ronald de Leeuw, “Introduction” in The Hague School, Dutch Masters of the 19th Century, op.cit., p. 14.
 Dr. Jos de Gruyter, op.cit., p. 72; and Wiepke Loos, op.cit., p. 66.
 Frank Rutter, “A Consideration of the Work of Anton Mauve” in The International Studio, volume 33, John Lane Company, November 1907, p. 10; and Nina Lübbren, Rural Artists’ Colonies in Europe 1870-1910, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2001, pp. 170-171.
 Catalogue of the Valuable Paintings Collected by the Late Joseph Jefferson, American Art Galleries, New York, April 27, 1906, lot 67; and “Art an Investment, An Echo from the Joseph Jefferson Sale” in Academy Notes, Buffalo, New York, May 1906, p. 201.
 Ronald de Leeuw, “Anton Mauve,” op.cit., p. 234.
 A.C. Loffelt, “Anton Mauve” in The Art Journal, volume 56, J.S. Virtue & Co, Limited, London, 1894, p. 105.
 A.C. Loffelt, “Anton Mauve” in Dutch Painters of the Nineteenth Century, Sampson Low, Marston & Company Limited, London, 1900, p. 31.