ANTON MAUVE (Zaandam 1838 – Arnhem 1888)
signed in the lower right A Mauve
watercolor on paper
6 ¼ x 9 inches (15.9 x 22.8 cm.)
Private Collection, New York, circa 1949 until 2015
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 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 surrounded by 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 umpteen museums throughout the world.
In 1907 the art critic Frank Rutter wrote:
“I am always inclined to associate Mauve with horses... because here they excelled all rivals and set a new thing before the succeeding generation. What Géricault had done for the charger, what Degas was afterwards to do for the racehorse and carriage-horse, Mauve did for the horse of the fields. He stamped its type, so that we cannot look at a horse ploughing without thinking of his pictures. Many of his best paintings are horse subjects.”
As in this work, Mauve often depicted horses and master wearily trudging home at the end of the day. These subjects were usually titled Homeward Bound. The painting Homeward Bound (acc.no.25.53) in The Toledo Museum of Art, for which our watercolor is a study, is regarded as one of the finest versions of the subject executed in a horizontal format. The museum has dated their painting’s execution as circa 1872-1882, a period during which Mauve was particularly drawn to such scenes. The painting’s original title when owned by the important Scotch collector Alexander Young was The Wet Road, and the logic behind this labeling is overt in the study. A sodden landscape has been created by a brilliant use of an economy of means. The exhaustion of the rider and three black horses is palpable as they trudge along a wet sandy track filled with puddles. Executed in a concordance of earthy colors that serve to blend man, beast, ground and sky into a harmonious unit, an open vista rises in the back and left side while the right side is enclosed by thick black shrubs. In its simplicity of form, Mauve has captured the essence of life and land.
 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.
 Frank Rutter, op. cit., p. 14.
 Ronald de Leeuw, “Anton Mauve, A Dutch Road” in The Hague School, op. cit. no. 97, p. 240.
 “Anton Mauve, Homeward Bound” in The Toledo Museum of Art European Paintings, Toledo, Ohio, 1976, pp. 109-110.