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Roe­lant Rogh­man, Dutch, 1627-1692: High Trees by a River with a Town in the Distance, c. 1650-55 

Artists’ biog­ra­ph­er Arnold Houbrak­en (1660-1719) called Roe­lant Rogh­man a great friend of Rem­brandt van Rijn.” Rogh­man is also con­sid­ered one of the most exper­i­men­tal and pro­lif­ic Dutch land­scape artists of his day and may have also been one of Rem­brandt’s pupils in Ams­ter­dam. Here, Rogh­man empha­sizes a lone trav­el­er in the cen­tral fore­ground and uses a vari­ety of pen strokes and selec­tive wash­es to lead the view­er’s eye through a zigzag com­po­si­tion of alter­nat­ing tree clus­ters, cul­mi­nat­ing in a dis­tant, pre­cise­ly ren­dered river fortress and town in the background.

Roe­lant Rogh­man was one of the most exper­i­men­tal and com­mit­ted land­scape artists of his day whose sur­viv­ing draw­ings num­ber far more than his paint­ings and prints.2

The present work demon­strates his full dynam­ic range, using both pen and brush in com­bi­na­tion to set forth a wide range of strokes for effect and depth. The tree group that dom­i­nates the right side of the image exhibits vir­tu­osic flour­ish­es in the foliage, while his detailed ren­der­ing of the town and ships in the dis­tance reveal his capac­i­ty for minute and pre­cise­ly sug­ges­tive marks. Also notable is how effec­tive­ly Rogh­man built vol­u­met­ric space in the ground, river­bank, and tree branch­es. He used three dif­fer­ent tones of gray wash, as well as a few strokes of the wash’s undi­lut­ed black ink source, skill­ful­ly inte­grat­ing all of this brush­work with the brown ink lines that he laid down first with the pen. Signed by his own hand, Rogh­man clear­ly intend­ed the sheet as a fin­ished autonomous work, as was the case with the vast major­i­ty of his sur­viv­ing draw­ings, few of which relate direct­ly to his paint­ings or prints.

Because of the sin­gu­lar style of the foliage in this work, Wern­er Sumows­ki placed it in a spe­cial cat­e­go­ry of Rogh­man’s draw­ings that he dubbed the zigzag group.”3

The word corkscrew” might bet­ter describe the deft twist­ing of the branch ends. In any case, the Peck draw­ing arguably offers the most splen­did exam­ple of this effect in Rogh­man’s oeu­vre. Other draw­ings in this group vary con­sid­er­ably in scale and style, but sim­i­lar­ly large sheets include a draw­ing in the Rijksmu­se­um, one for­mer­ly in the Jacobus Klaver col­lec­tion, and a sheet in the Lou­vre.4

The lat­ter draw­ing appears to be the clos­est sur­viv­ing sib­ling to the Peck sheet in terms of style, though its con­di­tion has suf­fered from loss­es of paper at the cor­ners Fig. 35.1.

Roelant Roghman, Pond in a Forest with a Figure and Donkey
Fig. 35.1

Roe­lant Rogh­man, Pond in a For­est with a Fig­ure and Don­key. Pen in black ink and gray wash on paper, 262 × 335 mm. Paris, Musée du Lou­vre, inv. no. 23220.

As with many of Rogh­man’s draw­ings, dat­ing works belong­ing to the zigzag group is dif­fi­cult. Rogh­man had a rel­a­tive­ly long work­ing life, span­ning from 1645 to the 1680s.5

Accord­ing to his first biog­ra­ph­er, Arnold Houbrak­en (1660 – 1719), Rogh­man lived in the Old Mans’ Home (Oude­man­nen­huis) in Ams­ter­dam in 1686 after a long career that extend­ed into his old age.6

Only a small hand­ful of draw­ings up to the year 1657 bear dates or are dat­a­ble, yet they already dis­play a remark­ably broad range of style and fin­ish. For instance, the large body of over 200 draw­ings made around 1646 – 47 of cas­tles and manor hous­es that he doc­u­ment­ed while trav­el­ing around the Nether­lands is quite dif­fer­ent from the present work.7

These large sheets were exe­cut­ed in black chalk and wash and record the archi­tec­tur­al beau­ty of the struc­tures in their often-remote set­tings. Rogh­man’s clear propen­si­ty in this early series to exper­i­ment quite strik­ing­ly with foliage effects is rel­e­vant to our dis­cus­sion. His View of Langer­ak Cas­tle, for exam­ple, for­mer­ly sit­u­at­ed on the Lek River east of Rot­ter­dam, demon­strates how Rogh­man mas­ter­ful­ly con­trast­ed his graph­ic tech­niques in the rows of trees Fig. 35.2.8

Roelant Roghman, View of the Gatehouse and Langerak Castle
Fig. 35.2

Roe­lant Rogh­man, View of the Gate­house and Langer­ak Cas­tle, c. 1646 – 47. Black chalk and gray wash on paper, 206 × 327 mm. Paris, Fon­da­tion Cus­to­dia, Col­lec­tion Frits Lugt, inv. no. 3602.

This draw­ing already bears his dis­tinc­tive zigzag marks in the dan­gling foliage in the left-hand row. It is prob­a­bly worth recon­sid­er­ing, then, the use­ful­ness of Sumowski’s con­cept of the zigzag group as a clus­ter of works, since sim­i­lar foliage effects can be found in a wide range of Rogh­man’s draw­ings that appear to cross his career.

With that in mind, a rel­a­tive­ly early date just on either side of 1650 can be pro­posed for the Peck draw­ing. It has pre­vi­ous­ly been sug­gest­ed that this draw­ing may have been made slight­ly later, dur­ing or after his trip to the Alps in the years 1654 – 57, due to for­eign-seem­ing ele­ments in the topog­ra­phy.9

This river fortress and town, how­ev­er, could also be Dutch, espe­cial­ly given the archi­tec­ture of the two church spires and the rows of gables along the wharf. Heav­i­ly for­ti­fied towns along river estu­ar­ies were com­mon in South Hol­land and Zee­land in these years, with fortress­es that were still active up to the end of the Eighty Years’ War in 1648. Despite the dif­fer­ence in style with the black chalk cas­tle series from 1646 to 1647, a few other exam­ples of pen and wash draw­ings like this one appear to come from these years as well, such as his depic­tion of Zand­voort that he used for an etch­ing made before 1652, and a land­scape draw­ing from the De Grez Col­lec­tion from circa 1651.10

Both of those works share the pre­ci­sion and tight­ness of the present work, which con­trasts strik­ing­ly with Rogh­man’s larg­er body of loos­er and sketch­i­er pen and wash draw­ings that date from the 1660s onward.

End Notes

  1. Dumas 2015, 245 – 46. The early prove­nance as part of Van Rossum’s col­lec­tion was pro­posed by Dumas based on sim­i­lar­i­ty in dimen­sions and descrip­tion in the 1773 sale of his col­lec­tion, lots 151 – 52, paired with a draw­ing now in the Rijksmu­se­um, Ams­ter­dam (inv. no. rp-t-1887-a-1383).

  2. Rogh­man’s sur­viv­ing draw­ings like­ly num­ber over 300, of which 212 com­pose the cas­tle series cat­a­logued in Van der Wyck & Kloek, 1989 – 90; for a selec­tion of the remain­der, see Sumows­ki Draw­ings, vol. 10, passim.

  3. See Sumows­ki Draw­ings, vol. 10, under no. 2248 (the present work), with a cur­so­ry list of eight oth­ers that Sumows­ki also puts in this group.

  4. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. rp-t1887-a-1383; see online entry by A. Ste­fes in Turn­er 2018: hdl​.han​dle​.net/​10934 /RM0001.collect.60396 (accessed 16 March 2020). For the ex-Klaver draw­ing, see entry by Schat­born in Ams­ter­dam 1993, no. 48; sub­se­quent­ly auc­tioned at Sotheby’s, Ams­ter­dam, 5 Novem­ber 2002, lot 58. Paris, Musée du Lou­vre, inv. no. 23220; see Lugt 1929 – 33, vol. 2, no. 662.

  5. For the early draw­ings, along with gen­er­al issues relat­ed to Rogh­man’s oeu­vre, see Kloek in Van der Wyck & Kloek 1989 – 90, vol. 2, 15 – 39.

  6. Houbrak­en 1718 – 21, vol. 1, 173 – 74. For archival­ly based bio­graph­i­cal data, see Kloek, Dudok van Heel, and Bok in Van der Wyck & Kloek 1989 – 90, vol. 2, 1 – 14.

  7. See Van der Wyck & Kloek 1989 – 90 for a study of this series. For fur­ther reflec­tions on its pos­si­ble patron, see Plomp 1997, 322 – 23.

  8. Paris, Fon­da­tion Cus­to­dia, inv. no. 3602; see Schat­born 2010, no. 150. The cas­tle was demol­ished in the eigh­teenth century

  9. A. Ste­fes in Turn­er 2018 (as in note 4 above). For the evi­dence, which is only visu­al rather than writ­ten (i.e., doc­u­ment­ed in his draw­ings) that Rogh­man made the trip to the Alps and even to Italy, see the use­ful sum­ma­ry under Schat­born 2010, no. 155. The sug­ges­tion that Roghman’s draw­ing in Weimar (inv. no. KK 5329) was made in Italy, per­haps Venice, is less con­vinc­ing; see Leonoor van Oost­erzee in Ams­ter­dam 1999, 94 – 95.

  10. Plomp 1997, no. 395; Brus­sels, Ams­ter­dam & Aachen 2007 – 08, no. 69. Some com­pa­ra­ble pen work can also already be found in Roghman’s 1646 – 47 cas­tle series; see, for exam­ple, Swi­eten Cas­tle in Van der Wyck & Kloek 1989 – 90, vol. 1, no. 187; and Mil­wau­kee 2005 – 06, no. 85.