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Guil­lam Dubois, Dutch, 1623/25-1653: Cot­tages Along a Wood­ed Road, c. 1647 

Lit­tle is known about the Haar­lem painter Guil­lam Du Bois (or Dubois) despite the abun­dant charm of his land­scape draw­ings, which are rel­a­tive­ly scarce today.1

Archival research has yield­ed var­i­ous birth and death dates for the artist, a dif­fi­cul­ty exac­er­bat­ed by the var­i­ous other indi­vid­u­als with a sim­i­lar name in Haar­lem at the time. It appears that he prob­a­bly did not, in the end, live a very long life.2

Du Bois joined the Haar­lem guild in 1646, and his ear­li­est paint­ings date to 1644. We know that he trav­eled to Cologne in the years 1652 – 53 in the com­pa­ny of Vin­cent Lau­ren­sz van der Vinne (1628 – 1702), who kept a jour­nal of the trip, and Dirck Helm­brek­er (1633 – 1696).3

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Van der Vinne left us no record of Du Bois as an artist or per­son, mere­ly record­ing when he joined and left the group of trav­el­ing artists. All trace of him is lost after 1653, and it is entire­ly pos­si­ble that he per­ished short­ly there­after, per­haps even on his solo jour­ney from Cologne back to Haar­lem.4

Of the approx­i­mate­ly three dozen draw­ings by Du Bois cur­rent­ly known, the two in the Peck Col­lec­tion are arguably among his finest. For the present work, he appears to have cho­sen a Dutch vil­lage in the coun­try­side for his sub­ject, one sim­i­lar to any num­ber found in the envi­rons of Haar­lem and which proved of endur­ing inter­est to land­scape artists from the begin­ning of the cen­tu­ry onward. To cap­ture the rus­tic grace of the dwellings nes­tled with­in their dense­ly foli­ate sur­round­ings, Du Bois care­ful­ly con­trolled the pres­sure and den­si­ty of his black chalk lines to sug­gest mul­ti­ple lay­ers of depth. His live­ly corkscrew-like tree branch­es, a hall­mark of his style, ani­mate the image. In a few places he cre­at­ed tone through stump­ing (rub­bing fri­able pas­sages of chalk), which can be seen with par­tic­u­lar­ly good effect in the thatched roof of the cot­tage in the foreground.

Dis­tinc­tive, too, is his judi­cious appli­ca­tion of red chalk, which he occa­sion­al­ly added to his draw­ings.5

It sets off the tex­ture of brick for the chim­ney and wall of the cot­tage at left, and won­der­ful­ly demar­cates the roof of the struc­ture behind a row of trees at right by using short, care­ful­ly placed strokes between the branch­es of the trees. While his dis­tinc­tive style in com­bin­ing black and red chalk in his land­scape draw­ings is entire­ly his own, he may have been inspired by the prece­dent of Willem Buytewech (1591/92 – 1624), who worked in Haar­lem briefly a gen­er­a­tion ear­li­er and made a num­ber of notable black chalk land­scape draw­ings with touch­es of red chalk as well.6

In his study of the artist’s draw­ings, Jeroen Giltaij dated the present sheet to circa 1647.7

Devel­op­ing a con­vinc­ing chronol­o­gy of Du Bois’s draw­ings, how­ev­er, is near­ly impos­si­ble given that his entire oeu­vre only spans a decade, and that so few of his sheets relate to dated paint­ings. Fur­ther­more, only two of his draw­ings bear dates, those in Rot­ter­dam and Lon­don from 1646 and 1647, and thus toward the out­set of his career.8

The more fully real­ized inte­gra­tion of style and tech­nique in the present work sug­gests that it was prob­a­bly made some­what later.

End Notes

  1. For Du Bois’s draw­ings, see Giltaij 1977, record­ing about thir­ty works. Sev­er­al more attrib­uted to him have appeared in the inter­im, var­i­ous in qual­i­ty and in secu­ri­ty of attribution.

  2. I. van Thiel-Stro­man in Bies­boer et al. 2006, 112 – 13. Du Bois was prob­a­bly born in either 1623 or 1625 to one of two sets of par­ents who gave birth to a child of that name in Haar­lem, and not in 1610 as pre­vi­ous­ly thought. His death date had long been thought to be 1680 but Van Thiel-Stro­man demon­strat­ed that this was based on the death record of a dif­fer­ent Guil­lam Du Bois.

  3. For the repub­li­ca­tion and study of Van der Vinne’s jour­nal, see Slig­gers 1979.

  4. I. van Thiel-Stro­man in Bies­boer et al. 2006, 112.

  5. Touch­es of red chalk can also be found in the other draw­ing by Du Bois in the Peck Col­lec­tion in the Ack­land Art Muse­um (inv. no. 2017.1.22), as well as draw­ings in the Rijksmu­se­um, Ams­ter­dam (inv. no. rp-t-1976-115) and the British Muse­um, Lon­don (inv. no. 1836,0811.797).

  6. See, for exam­ple, the draw­ing by Buytewech, Mead­ow with a Shep­herd and Cows, c. 1617, Nation­al Gallery of Art, Wash­ing­ton (inv. no. 1977.61.1).

  7. Giltaij 1977, 154 (when the draw­ing was still in the col­lec­tion of Hans van Leeuwen, Utrecht, illus­trat­ed as fi g. 11 on p. 152). Giltaij argues for this date on the basis of paint­ings from 1646 to 1647 that like­wise treat vil­lage dwellings.

  8. Muse­um Boi­j­mans Van Beunin­gen, Rot­ter­dam (inv. no. MB 1975/T33), dated 1646; and British Muse­um, Lon­don (inv. no. 1836,0811.796), signed and dated 1647. The lat­ter work is in fact the only signed draw­ing by Du Bois, for which see C. Brown in Lon­don 1986, no. 95a.