ANDREAS SCHELFHOUT (The Hague 1787 – The Hague 1870)
Loading the Sleigh (De Slee Laden)
signed A. Schelfhout and dated 58 in the lower left
oil on panel
12 ¼ x 16 ¾ inches (31 x 42.5 cm.)
Anonymous sale, Sotheby’s, New York, May 27, 1982, lot 17, illustrated
Richard Green, London
MacConnal-Mason Gallery, London, from whom acquired by
Private collection, Maryland, April 1985, until the present time
Willem Laanstra, Andreas Schelfhout, 1787–1870, Rokin Art Press, Amsterdam, 1995, p. 116, no. W1858-1, illustrated
Andreas Schelfhout, along with Bart van Hove and Barend Cornelis Koekkoek, created the landscape tradition of Dutch Romanticism. Schelfhout was dubbed by contemporary art critics as “the Claude Lorrain of the Winter Scene.” Collectors considered themselves lucky to own one of his ice skating scenes, and students mobbed his studio.
He began his career working for his father in the gilding and picture framing business until he was 24. He also painted houses. After a successful debut in The Hague in 1811, Schelfhout began his serious studies with J.A.A.H. Breckenheimer, who was a stage designer. He further took to intensely studying seventeenth century paintings, drawings, and prints. Throughout his career, he would combine them with his own prodigious outdoor sketches, endlessly reworking them in his studio to achieve an infinite variety. By 1816, his star was in ascendancy and Schelfhout never looked back.
Although he painted summer landscapes, beach scenes, moonlight views, and even some animal pictures, it was Schelfhout’s winter landscapes that enthralled the public. Loading the Sleigh enshrines the Romantic School’s celebration and glorification of nature. From a high vantage point, the sky dominates a winter tableau of a frozen waterway populated with skaters. Although not a large panel, the employment of a low horizon line makes the scene appear endless. Beneath and above impasto-laden, pink-hued clouds, light and color complement one another. The verticality of the old tower, shed, and trees along the riverbanks provide the needed balance to the composition’s otherwise overriding horizontality. In compliance with Romanticism’s ideology regarding the primacy of nature, the figures are of a diminutive scale, yet portrayed with obvious delight. Found in many of his compositions, as a starting point in the foreground, are a small group gathered around a sledge. The additional group to the left engaged in loading the horse-drawn sleigh adds to the scene’s immense charm. The continuous line of skaters serves to direct the viewer’s eye into the far reaches of the panel.
Schelfhout’s influence over Dutch art in the mid-nineteenth century was remarkable. His powers of observation, extraordinary technical skill, ability to capture nature’s fleeting moments, and seemingly endlessly varied compositions were unmatched by any of his contemporaries. This undeniable truth is borne out by the fact that paintings by the artist can be found in virtually every major museum in The Netherlands as well as in institutions throughout the world.
 Biographical information taken from Ronald de Leeuw, “Towards a New Landscape Art” in The Hague School, Dutch Masters of the 19th Century, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London & traveling, 1983, p. 52; Willem Laanstra, Andreas Schelfhout, 1787–1870, Rokin Art Press, Amsterdam, 1995, p. 42; and C.C.P. Marius, Dutch Painters of the 19th Century, Antique Collectors’ Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1988, p. 92.
 Pieter A. Scheen, “Andreas Schelfhout” in Lexicon Nederlandse Beeldende Kunstenaars 1750–1880, Uitgeverij Pieter A. Scheen BV, ‘s-Gravenhage, 1981, pp. 456-457; Laanstra, op. cit., pp. 33, 62-63; and Annemieke Hoogenboom, “Andreas Schelfhout” in Grove – The Dictionary of Art, volume 28, MacMillan Publishers Limited, London, 1996, p. 72.
 Laanstra, op. cit., p. 33.
 Ibid, pp. 17, 42-43