Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


JOHANNES HENDRIK WEISSENBRUCH (The Hague 1824 – The Hague 1903)

A Sunlit Windmill in the Dunes Near The Hague

signed J. H. Weissenbruch in the lower left

oil on paper laid down on panel

7 ¼ x 11 inches          (18 x 28 cm.)


Private Collection, New York, circa 1949 until the present time



Johannes Hendrik Weissenbruch Archives, no. O/18-6


Johannes Hendrik Weissenbruch spent his entire career in The Hague, mainly painting landscapes, engaged in a constant battle as he described it “to have nature itself on the canvas”.[1] In Dr. Jos. De Gruyter’s 1968 standard-setting two volume work De Haagse School, he characterized Weissenbruch as “the greatest of the Hague School painters ... a landscapist par excellence with powers of suggestion beyond anything the 17th century has ever known. In him the development of the Hague School reached its culmination”.[2] 

Born into an artistic family, Weissenbruch’s father, a chef and restaurateur, was an amateur artist as well as a collector of Romantic School paintings. His cousin Johannes (Jan) Weissenbruch was a well-known painter of town and river scenes. Four other cousins, Frederik Hendrik, Frederik Johann, Daniel and Isaac all with the surname Weissenbruch, worked as printmakers. His son Willem Johannes painted landscapes and still lifes. Weissenbruch’s formal training started at sixteen with drawing lessons from J. J. Löw as well as evening classes at the Haagse Academie from 1843-1850 under Bartholomeus Johannes van Hove. It is also possible that he worked in Van Hove’s studio. Weissenbruch’s early landscapes further reflect the influence of Andreas Schelfhout but it is unclear whether he had direct contact with the painter. His first exhibition was in 1847 at the Tentoonstelling van Levende Meesters (Exhibition of Living Masters). In 1849 the Teylers Museum, Haarlem purchased his View from Dekkersduin. During this period Weissenbruch also spent a great deal of time in the Mauritshuis studying and copying the works of Jacob van Ruisdael, Paulus Potter and Vermeer. In 1863 he married Susanna Petronella Geertruida Schouw. In 1866 he joined the Société Belge des Aquarellistes in Brussels. In 1870 his View of the Trekvliet was acquired by the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, and in 1873 Landscape with Windmill near Schiedam entered the collection of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. In 1874 he received a gold medal at the Internationale Tentoonstelling (International Exhibition), Amsterdam. In 1899 for his seventy-fifth birthday Weissenbruch was honored by members of the Pulchri Studio as well as given a solo exhibition in Amsterdam by Frans Buffa & Sons. The show not only boosted his reputation and popularity but was a financial success which afforded him the opportunity to travel. His only trip abroad was in 1900 to Fontainebleau and Barbizon in France.[3]

Vincent Van Gogh first became aware of works by Weissenbruch in 1872 and met him in 1873.[4] In a letter to his brother Theo dated August 3, 1877, Van Gogh recalled, “I was once at Weissenbruch’s studio, a few days before I left for London, and the memory of what I saw there, the studies and the pictures, is still as vivid as that of the man himself”. Most admired by Van Gogh was Weissenbruch’s play of light and shadow as well as his loose and vigorous brushwork, which are the compositional essence of A Sunlit Windmill in the Dunes Near The Hague. In this work under an endless vista of rolling clouds hovering over a flat landscape defined by alternating bands of light and shade, vertical accents are provided by the simplistic shapes of the farmhouse, windmill, clump of trees and haystacks. Combined with pleasing coloration, the panel is really a poetic evocation of nature as opposed to a topographical view. In its simplicity lies its modernity.

Willem Laanstra, the author of the 1992 catalogue raisonné on the painter, has suggested the possible location of this work as the Boerderij Hanenborg in the Westduinen near The Hague based on comparable examples by the artist of the farmhouse.[5] Although a different location than this panel there is a very similar painting of almost the same size in the Dordrechts Museum titled Een poldervaart bij noorden.

Numerous examples of works by Weissenbruch can be found in the museums of Amsterdam, Arnhem, Dordrecht, Enschede, Groningen, Haarlem, Laren, Middelburg, Otterlo, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. Outside Holland, Weissenbruch’s art formed part of the permanent collections of the museums of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Cincinnati; Detroit; Montreal; Oberlin, Ohio; St. Louis and Toledo.

Hitherto unpublished we are grateful to Willem Laanstra for confirming A Sunlit Windmill in the Dunes Near The Hague as an autograph work by Johannes Hendrik Weissenbruch.



[1] Dr. Jos. De Gruyter, “J. H. Weissenbruch” in De Haagse School, volume I, Lemniscaat, Rotterdam, 1968, pp. 74. The artist was also called Hendrik Johannes, Johan Hendrik or Jan Hendrik.

[2] Ibid, pp. 14, 74.

[3] Biographical information taken from Dr. Jos. De Gruyter, op. cit., p. 74; John Sillevis, “Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch” in The Hague School, Dutch Masters of the 19th Century, exhibition catalog, Royal Academy of Arts, London & traveling, 1983, p. 275.; and Pieter A. Scheen, “Hendrik Johannes Weissenbruch” in Lexicon Nederlandse Beeldende Kunstenaars 1750-1880, Uitgeverij Pieter A. Scheen BV, ’s-Gravenhage, 1981, pp. 574-575.

[4] Ronald de Leeuw, The Van Gogh Museum: paintings and pastels, Waanders, 1994, p. 45.

[5] Written Communication from Willem Laanstra, dated Mechelen, October 22, 2014; and Willem Laanstra, Johan Hendrik Weissenbruch, Tableau, Amsterdam, 1992, see nos. O/18-7 & OA/18-4.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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