LOT 125

1881 - 1957

Cityscape on the Edge of Amsterdam
oil on canvas
initialed and dated 1907 and on verso inscribed indistinctly
16 x 13 in, 40.6 x 33 cm

Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000 CAD

Sold for: $37,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Dr. Johannes Fredericus Samuel Esser, Amsterdam
Collection of W.B.K. Verster, brother-in-law of Dr. Esser
By descent through the Verster family to the present Private Collection, British Columbia

The Dutch painter Jan Sluijters had been trained in the academic tradition during his sojourn at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam between 1901 and 1902. In 1904, he won the so-called Prix de Rome, enabling him to travel to Rome and other Italian cities, as well as Madrid and Paris to study the work of the old masters. Sluijters, however, was much more fascinated by contemporary painters, especially Fauvists such as Henri Matisse, André Derain and Kees van Dongen. Sluijters returned to Holland to show his progress to the jury of the Prix de Rome, but they were so shocked by his colourful and boldly painted works of Paris nightlife that Sluijters lost the prize. Many Dutch critics were of the same mind; some, however, saw a new manner of painting in Sluijters’s work. Together with Piet Mondrian and Leo Gestel, he became one of the artists of the school called Amsterdam Luminism. These artists aimed to capture their personal perception of light, whether it be the glow of a lamp in a room or the rays of sunlight in a landscape. Colour and form became an independent aspect of the artwork.

Works by Amsterdam Luminists were often refused for exhibitions, but these artists nevertheless made quite a name for themselves as the new Dutch avant-garde, and several collectors were avid fans of their work. One of these collectors was the general practitioner Johannes Fredericus Samuel Esser. In 1905, Esser moved to Amsterdam, where he settled in the new quarter behind the Rijksmuseum. He met several artists through his practice, and it is possible that Sluijters and Esser became acquainted in the same manner. Sluijters introduced the doctor to artists of his generation, and Esser soon became a passionate collector of their work, mostly acquiring paintings and drawings directly from artists while visiting their studios in his free time. By doing so, he often acquired works just after they came into existence. He had a penchant for sketches and unfinished works, with the consequence that drawings, watercolours and oil sketches make up an important part of his collection.

Sluijters and Esser met each other often in the studio on the Tweede Jan Steenstraat that the artist shared with fellow Luminist Gestel. Esser was fascinated by Sluijters’s paintings and added many to his collection. These paintings included several depictions of areas on the outskirts of Amsterdam, such as De Baarsjes, and this painting is probably one of them. Sluijters started painting these relatively small landscapes after his return to the Netherlands, maybe due to the negative reactions to his exuberant depictions of Parisian nightlife. These landscapes and cityscapes are built up in a combination of direct Pointillist and Impressionist brush-strokes, with Sluijters often laying on the paint thickly to accentuate the touch of the sun on a cloud or the waves in the water. This particular painting is a very good example of Sluijters’s work around 1907.

This painting was possibly acquired from the Esser Estate Auction at Mak van Waay, Amsterdam on June 14, 1949. W.B.K. Verster was married to Nora Hazelhoff Roelfzema, sister of Dr. Esser's first wife Olga Hazelhoff Roelfzema, and he acquired a number of paintings from the Esser Estate auction.

We thank Mayken Jonkman for contributing the above essay. Jonkman is a curator of nineteenth-century art at the RKD-Netherlands Institute for Art History in The Hague. She is co-author (together with the late Sluijters specialist Jacqueline de Raad) of the publication Mondriaan Breitner Sluijters e.a. De onstuitbare verzamelaar J.F.S. Esser (Zwolle / The Hague, 2005). This work is included in the Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Jan Sluijters compiled by Jacqueline de Raad (http://sluijters.rkdmonographs.nl), registration: https://rkd.nl/explore/images/102000.

Estimate: $60,000 - $80,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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