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Joris van der Haa­gen, Dutch, c. 1615-1669: View in the Hague Woods (“Haagse Bos”), c. 1660 

Using a vari­ety of draw­ing media and styl­is­tic tech­niques, Joris van der Haa­gen empha­sized the tow­er­ing beau­ty of old-growth trees and lush foliage, their impres­sive scale under­scored by the hunter and dog vis­i­ble through the tall grass­es in the fore­ground. Aside from occa­sion­al trav­el, the artist spent his entire career in The Hague and drew the large and state­ly for­est of the Haagse Bos (Hague Woods) on a reg­u­lar basis. The sig­nif­i­cance of these woods, aside from their visu­al­ly rich appear­ance, rests in their his­to­ry. Near­ly destroyed for its tim­ber early in the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648), a law passed in 1576 per­ma­nent­ly pre­served the wood­ed park, a crit­i­cal ini­tia­tive that allowed parts of the land to remain acces­si­ble to vis­i­tors up to the present day.

Accord­ing to his signed inscrip­tion at the bot­tom of the sheet, Joris van der Haa­gen drew this study in the beau­ti­ful­ly pre­served woods just north­east of The Hague known as the Haagse Bos” (Hague Woods). The park is best known for hous­ing the palace Huis ten Bosch, built in 1645 – 52, that con­tains a notable cycle of paint­ings by var­i­ous Dutch and Flem­ish artists in its famous Oran­jeza­al. The palace today serves as the res­i­dence of the Dutch royal fam­i­ly, though much of the park is still pub­licly accessible.

The woods would have been a short walk for Van der Haa­gen from his home in The Hague city cen­ter, where he lived for his entire career. He joined the guild there in 1643, served as head­man in 1653, and in 1656 became one of the cofounders of the new fi né arts guild called the Con­frerie Pic­tura.1

Although he trav­eled quite fre­quent­ly, pro­duc­ing a num­ber of labeled or topo­graph­i­cal­ly iden­ti­fi­able views of sites along the Rhine River and other regions in the Nether­lands and Ger­many, the Haagse Bos proved to be his favorite sub­ject clos­er to home. At least two dozen of his draw­ings appear to be set in the woods, around half of which are labeled as such by his own hand.2 Some of these draw­ings served as stud­ies for his land­scape paint­ings.3 He appears to have kept many of his land­scape draw­ings in his stu­dio until the end of his life.4

Van der Haa­gen’s full pow­ers as a drafts­man are on dis­play in this sheet. His ren­der­ing of the dap­pling effects of sun­light and move­ment in the foliage are par­tic­u­lar­ly dis­tinc­tive. Arnold Houbrak­en (1660 – 1719) was a great admir­er of Van der Haa­gen’s land­scape draw­ings, describ­ing their mar­velous­ly spir­it­ed” man­ner, and not­ing they achieved high prices at auc­tion in 1715.5

In the Peck draw­ing, Van der Haa­gen enhanced the rich­ness of his foliage effects through a vari­ety of pen and brush tech­niques that com­bine deft­ly to define tex­tures and spa­tial zones. The brown ink applied with a pen, seen in the large tree that dom­i­nates the mid­dle of the image, effec­tive­ly pulls that tree out­ward from the oth­ers. He prob­a­bly used an iron-gall ink for these high­lights, seen also in the hedges and marshy grass in the fore­ground, which may have been dark­er or black­er when orig­i­nal­ly applied. He also added dark accents with what appears to be an oiled black chalk in places, seen espe­cial­ly in the small tree in the lower right cor­ner. This metic­u­lous com­bi­na­tion of media cre­ates a lav­ish sense of the woods as a visu­al­ly rich sub­ject. 6

Van der Haa­gen’s drawn oeu­vre has not yet yield­ed a clear styl­is­tic devel­op­ment to aid in the dat­ing of his works, with the excep­tion of a hand­ful of sheets from early in his career.7

A date around 1650 for the Peck draw­ing can be cau­tious­ly posit­ed based on com­pa­ra­ble pen work in the foliage and marshy grass in a draw­ing of Door­w­erth (near Arn­hem) bear­ing a date of that year Fig. 33.1. 8

Joris van der Haagen, Doorwerth
Fig. 33.1

Joris van der Haa­gen, Door­w­erth, 1650. Pen and brown ink, with gray wash over black chalk, 195 × 259 mm. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. rp-t-1884-a-342.

If indeed from around 1650, the Peck draw­ing would be one of Van der Haa­gen’s ear­li­est known depic­tions of the Haagse Bos, along with a large wood­ed scene in black chalk on blue paper from the 1640s in the Fon­da­tion Cus­to­dia, Paris Fig. 33.2. 9

Joris van der Haagen, View of the Haagse Bos
Fig. 33.2

Joris van der Haa­gen, View of the Haagse Bos, prob­a­bly 1644 or 1647. Black chalk and gray wash on blue paper, 570 × 455 mm. Paris, Fon­da­tion Cus­to­dia, Col­lec­tion Frits Lugt, inv. no. 9043.

Other labeled draw­ings of the Haagse Bos span the remain­der of his career, with sheets dated between 1653 and 1669.10 He drew the major­i­ty of these in black chalk on blue paper, with pen draw­ings like this one being less common.

The inscrip­tions that pop­u­late a num­ber of Van der Haa­gen’s draw­ings still hold some mys­ter­ies. There is good rea­son to think that most of them were applied at the same moment years later since so many appear to match close­ly in terms of orthog­ra­phy, ink, and place­ment at the bot­tom of the sheet.11

The lat­est of these is dated 1669, the year of his death, and it is pos­si­ble that most were added around that time, includ­ing the one on the present sheet.12

Many of his draw­ings appear to have had their inscrip­tions trimmed away early in their his­to­ry since they were prob­a­bly con­sid­ered a nui­sance by eigh­teen­th­cen­tu­ry col­lec­tors and deal­ers, but some sheets still have slight traces of the tops of the cropped inscrip­tions beneath new fram­ing lines. The inscrip­tions reveal that Van der Haa­gen had some sort of num­ber­ing sys­tem: dig­its fol­low­ing the word nomber or an abbre­vi­a­tion mean­ing the same. The word nomb… appears on the present sheet though the num­ber itself is no longer vis­i­ble, the artist hav­ing writ­ten over it with his sig­na­ture, JVHa­gen, as is the case on cer­tain other draw­ings as well. The vis­i­ble num­bers on other sheets run as high as 190, which is not sur­pris­ing given that around 250 draw­ings by the artist are esti­mat­ed to sur­vive today.13

The spe­cial appeal of these woods for Van der Haa­gen was not just due to their prox­im­i­ty to the city where he lived. The Haagse Bos was near­ly destroyed dur­ing the Eighty Years’ War (1568 – 1648) when the States of Hol­land decid­ed to sell its valu­able tim­ber in order to pay for mer­ce­nar­ies. In 1576, William the Silent (1533 – 1584) signed the Act of Redemp­tion to per­ma­nent­ly pre­serve the woods, a doc­u­ment that remains sig­nif­i­cant for the city. The act also pre­vent­ed com­mon peo­ple from enter­ing the for­est to make use of its nat­ur­al resources, a rule which a war­den was hired to enforce.14

The Haagse Bos there­fore offered an excep­tion­al­ly well-main­tained and enclosed Arca­di­an-like par­adise for artists such as Van der Haa­gen, with its beau­ti­ful old-growth trees and plen­ti­ful game. It pro­vid­ed an ide­al­ized yet nat­u­ral­ly exist­ing form of landscape.

Amalia van Solms (1602 – 1675), wife of the Stad­houd­er Fred­erik Hen­drik (1584 – 1647), began over­see­ing the build­ing of the Huis ten Bosch at the east­ern end of the woods in 1645.15

After its com­ple­tion in 1652, the build­ing fea­tured in a num­ber of Van der Haa­gen’s paint­ings, as did a num­ber of other build­ings by its archi­tect, Pieter Post (1608 – 1669), who was like­ly a close friend of the artist.16

The Haagse Bos became, in effect, a park and game pre­serve restrict­ed to the use of the Stad­houd­er’s court and guests, many of whom would have enjoyed wan­der­ing or indeed hunt­ing there, as one sees in the fore­ground. Van der Haa­gen would have almost cer­tain­ly need­ed spe­cial per­mis­sion to enter the woods, a grant­i­ng of access that like­ly indi­cates good con­nec­tions at court.

End Notes

  1. For Van der Haa­gen’s biog­ra­phy, see espe­cial­ly Bui­jsen et al. 1998, 146 – 49; and Van der Haa­gen 1932. For the found­ing and sig­nif­i­cance of the Con­frerie Pic­tura, see Bakker 2019.

  2. Van der Haa­gen 1932, 83 – 88, nos. 68 – 72, 77 – 98. This esti­mate includes draw­ings labeled Koekamp,” the west­ern end of the woods inter­sect­ing the city but like­wise enclosed. As Van der Haa­gen (a descen­dant of the artist) noted in his cat­a­logue raison­né, an exact num­ber of Haagse Bos draw­ings is dif­fi­cult to ascer­tain since a num­ber of them list­ed in early auc­tion cat­a­logues might repeat those he already list­ed. The artist made some paint­ings of the Haagse Bos, usu­al­ly with the Huis ten Bosch in the back­ground; idem, 84 – 85, nos. 73 – 76.

  3. For exam­ples of draw­ings of wood­land views that were used for his paint­ings, see Plomp 1997, 176 – 78, nos. 178 – 79.

  4. This sup­po­si­tion is based on the evi­dence that he added many of the inscrip­tions in the final year of his life, to be dis­cussed fur­ther below; Van der Haa­gen 1932, 25 – 26.

  5. Houbrak­en 1718 – 21, vol. 3, 203. One won­ders if the notable group of draw­ings that appeared at auc­tion in 1715 came from the estate of the artist’s son, Jacobus van der Haa­gen (1657 – 1715), also an artist.

  6. With thanks to the con­ser­va­tors Reba Sny­der and Grace White for exam­in­ing the media closely

  7. For the early draw­ings, which reveal a debt to Haar­lem artists of the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion such as Esa­ias van de Velde, see Robin­son 1990; Robin­son 2000; and Robin­son 2015.

  8. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. rp-t-1884-a-342; Schapel­houman & Schat­born 1987, 72 – 73; and Schat­born in Wash­ing­ton & Paris 2016 – 17, no. 1.

  9. The last digit has been var­i­ous­ly read, but thought to be either a 4 or 7, and the year there­fore as 1644 or 1647; see Car­los van Has­selt in Brus­sels, Rot­ter­dam, Paris, & Bern 1968 – 69, no. 72.

  10. Aside from the afore­men­tioned sheet in the Fon­da­tion Cus­to­dia (note 9, above), dated draw­ings of the Haagse Bos include: Ams­ter­dam, Rijk­mu­se­um, inv. no. RP-T-1884-A-343, dated 1653; Vien­na, Alberti­na, inv. no. 15132, dated 1658 (see Mar­i­an Bisanz-Prakken in Mil­wau­kee 2005 – 06, no. 76); Haar­lem, Teylers Muse­um, inv. no. U 23, dated 1662 (see Plomp 1997, no. 178; and Ker­sten in New York & Chica­go 1989, no. 90); Weimar, dated 1665 (Van der Haa­gen 1932, no. 82); Ams­ter­dam, Fodor Col­lec­tion, Ams­ter­dam Muse­um, inv. no. A 10186, dated 1668 (see Broos & Schapel­houman 1993, no. 65; and Duparc in Cam­bridge & Mon­tréal 1988, no. 40); and Frank­furt, Städel Muse­um, dated 1669 (Van der Haa­gen 1932, no. 79).

  11. For a dis­cus­sion of this issue, see Van der Haa­gen 1932, 25 – 26.

  12. The sheet dated 1669 in Frank­furt (as per note 10 above). Before dying on May 20, 1669, there is some evi­dence that the artist suf­fered a long ill­ness, since he was list­ed as indis­posed” a few months ear­li­er by the local civic guard, of which he was a mem­ber; see Bui­jsen et al. 1998, 149.

  13. Van der Haa­gen 1932, 145.

  14. Smit 1922, 274 – 80.

  15. For the his­to­ry of the Huis ten Bosch, see espe­cial­ly Van Eike­ma Hommes & Kolfin 2013.

  16. For the pre­sumed rela­tion­ship between Post and Van der Haa­gen, see Peter Sut­ton in Ams­ter­dam, Boston & Philadel­phia 1987 – 88, 337. For Van der Haa­gen’s paint­ings fea­tur­ing the Huis ten Bosch in the back­ground, see Van der Haa­gen 1932, 84 – 85, nos. 73 – 76.