JAN HENDRIK VERHEYEN (Utrecht 1778 – Utrecht 1846)
Boats Alongside a Stone Entranceway of a Dutch City
signed J.H. Verheyen (with the three initials conjoined) on the flagstone in the lower right
oil on panel
15 1/2 x 19 3/4 inches (39.4 x 50.2 cm.)
The Eastern Agency, St. Mary Axe, London
Their sale, Christie’s London, January 22, 1875, lot 65
Irving & Florence Rubinstein, New York until 2011
The visual feast that Jan Hendrik Verheyen has laid before us is one of pure fantasy. Idealized cityscapes in which buildings of various periods and architectural styles are mixed together were the specialty of Verheyen and a few of his contemporaries. Sometimes one or several of the buildings can be identified with existing structures, but in this case all of the architectural elements appear to be imaginary. For example the combination of architectural elements such as the small wooden house on top of the city wall does not exist in Holland and is purely an artistic invention. This serene depiction, painted from the artist’s imagination, of everyday pursuits along the waterways of a Dutch town resonate with the harmony of its inhabitants and their surroundings.
The impetus behind the painting was Verheyen’s adherence to the principles of Romanticism, a movement that lacked a specific style but embraced an attitude that swerved away from reality to embrace dreams. In their quest for new empirical truths the Romantics observed everything acutely and Verheyen has applied minute observation to the building of his imaginary city. The vivid clarity of the light underlines the idealization of the scene. The overwhelming feelings of peacefulness and contentment so evident in the panel are integral to the artist’s painted dream of the perfect life spent in the loveliest of surroundings. This work is an exuberant example of the transformation of eighteenth century Holland’s passion for realistic topographical paintings and drawings, also characterized by exacting detail, into a more romantic reproach in the early nineteenth century.
Verheyen began a career as a notary, but gave it up at the age of twenty-one to paint. His first instructor was Nicolaas Osti of Utrecht, who specialized in painting carriages and ornaments. This was followed by a period of self-instruction in which he devoted himself to an intense study of nature and copying works by Jan van der Heyden as well as Job and Gerrit Berckheyde, to whom the artist’s architectural scenes are indebted. He joined the Amsterdam Academy in 1822. Although Verheyen painted landscapes and portraits, the majority of his output featured townscapes and it is these works that are most prized. The few known works that are to a certain degree topographically correct, include the View of the Chancel and Tower of the Domkerk in Utrecht in the Centraal Museum, Utrecht. Other museums where the artist’s work can be found are those of Amsterdam, Boston, Cheltenham, Glasgow, The Hague, London, the Pierpont Morgan Library as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Otterlo and Rotterdam.
We are indebted to Charles Dumas for his invaluable assistance in the writing of this entry.
 Written communication from Charles Dumas, Chief Curator of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische
Documentatie, The Hague dated November 26, 2009 and January 28, 2011.
 Biographical information taken from John Denison Champlin, Jr. & Charles C. Perkins, “Jan Hendrik Verheyden”
in Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, volume IV, 1900, p. 352; Dr. Ulrich
Thieme & Dr. Felix Becker, “Jan Hendrik Verheyen” in Allgemaines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler, Veb, E. A.
Seeman Verlag, Leipzig, volume XXXIV, 1908, p. 253; and Pieter A. Scheen, “Jan Hendrik Verheijen” in Lexicon
Nederlandse Beeldende Kunstenaars 1750-1880, s’Gravenhage, 1981, p. 540.