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Guil­lam Dubois, Dutch, 1623/25-1653: View of Noord­wijk­er­hout, with the Witte Kerk, c. 1646-50 

Lit­tle is known about Haar­lem-based artist Guil­lam Du Bois apart from his entry into the artists’ guild in 1646, his voy­age to Cologne with two fel­low artists from 1652 to 1653, and his small body of extant work. 

This view of Noord­wijk­er­hout, locat­ed between Haar­lem and Lei­den, show­cas­es the village’s Witte Kerk (White Church), which had recent­ly under­gone selec­tive restora­tions. Although parts of the nave and the apse were inten­tion­al­ly left in ruins at the time, Du Bois focused on the refur­bished sec­tions. As in his draw­ing Cot­tages Along a Wood­ed Road, c. 1647, Du Bois applied touch­es of red chalk to both enliv­en the scene and add sub­tle tex­ture to the charm­ing and rus­tic buildings.

The View of Noord­wijk­er­hout high­lights Du Bois’s abil­i­ty to work in a com­bi­na­tion of media, here using a fi né-tipped brush to cre­ate foliage effects as dis­tinc­tive as those found in his black chalk draw­ings, but like­wise adding touch­es of red chalk to lend the image a sub­tle live­li­ness and sense of per­spec­ti­val vari­ety. A close­ly relat­ed sheet in terms of size, tech­nique, and sub­ject mat­ter is his View of the Church at Soest in the Rijksmu­se­um Fig. 31.1.1

Guillam Du Bois, View of the Church at Soest
Fig. 31.1

Guil­lam Du Bois, View of the Church at Soest, c. 1648 – 53. Black and red chalk with gray wash on paper, 130 × 198 mm. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. rp-t-1976-115.

Both draw­ings bear early inscrip­tions that cor­rect­ly iden­ti­fy the sites, promi­nent­ly in the Peck draw­ing in the upper left cor­ner (and on the Rijksmu­se­um’s sheet par­tial­ly cut off in the upper right). These may have been writ­ten by the artist him­self, or cer­tain­ly at some point in the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry. The inscrip­tions prob­a­bly reflect sep­a­rate jour­neys since the two loca­tions lie in con­sid­er­ably dif­fer­ent direc­tions from Du Bois’s home­town of Haar­lem. To reach Noord­wijk­er­hout, the artist trav­eled south from Haar­lem toward Lei­den, where he would have encoun­tered the vil­lage some­where around the mid­point between the two cities. Jan van Goyen (1596 – 1656) also depict­ed Noord­wijk­er­hout on at least two occa­sions, once in a still-intact sketch­book from the late 1640s (the Bredius-Kro­nig sketch­book), and anoth­er time from a far­ther van­tage point in a mono­grammed black chalk draw­ing dated 1653 Fig. 31.2.2

Jan van Goyen, View of Noordwijkerhout
Fig. 31.2

Jan van Goyen, View of Noord­wijk­er­hout, 1653. Black chalk with gray wash on paper, 116 × 195 mm. Cam­bridge, Fitzwilliam Muse­um, inv. no. pd.364-1963.

The vil­lage may have been more eas­i­ly acces­si­ble around this time, since the trek­vaart (the pop­u­lar pas­sen­ger boat canal ser­vice) expand­ed rapid­ly in the 1630s and 1640s through­out the province of Hol­land, includ­ing between Haar­lem and Lei­den.3

Du Bois and Van Goyen, how­ev­er, do not appear to be the first artists to take an inter­est in the vil­lage. Abra­ham Rade­mak­er record­ed now-lost views of Noord­wijk­er­hout made in 1631 and 1634 that he repro­duced as etch­ings near­ly a cen­tu­ry later in his Kabi­net van Ned­er­land­sche out­he­den en gezicht­en, pub­lished in 1725 Fig. 31.3.4

Abraham Rademaker, after an unknown artist, View of Noordwijkerhout
Fig. 31.3

Abra­ham Rade­mak­er, after an unknown artist, View of Noord­wijk­er­hout (after a lost image from 1631), book illus­tra­tion for Kabi­net van Ned­er­land­sche en Kleef­sche out­he­den, 1725. Etch­ing on paper, 80 × 115 mm. Ams­ter­dam, Rijksmu­se­um, inv. no. R P-P-OB-73.422.

Today, the town sits in the mid­dle of the famous bol­len­streek (bulb region), where crowds of tourists descend each spring to view tulips. While tulips were of course well-known in the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry, most of the tulip-grow­ing fields in this region only came much later, after the many woods had been cleared.

The Witte Kerk (or White Church”) appears much the same today as it did in Du Bois’s time Fig. 31.4. This medieval parish church was found­ed in the early thir­teenth cen­tu­ry, but suf­fered near-total destruc­tion dur­ing the Eighty Years’ War at the hands of Span­ish troops dur­ing one of their failed sieges of Lei­den in 1573 – 74.5

Repairs were under­tak­en between 1618 and 1620 that ren­dered it into the more mod­est struc­ture seen in the present sheet.6

Hav­ing no pas­tor, the Witte Kerk fell into dis­use in the early sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry, and vil­lagers com­plained that they had to share a pas­tor in Voorhout. The church became active again right around the time Du Bois like­ly made this drawing.

In 1647, Calvin­ist church author­i­ties final­ly assigned Noord­wijk­er­hout its own predikant and ordered fur­ther restora­tions to the Witte Kerk.7

The apse and much of the nave were inten­tion­al­ly left in ruins, as one sees in Van Goyen’s and Rade­mak­er’s images, though Du Bois decid­ed to focus instead on the restored por­tion of the church, offer­ing only the slight­est sug­ges­tion of the lower wall of the ruins behind (just vis­i­ble through the trees at the far right). Per­haps he pre­ferred to reflect on the rus­tic calm of a vil­lage seem­ing­ly untouched by time. As Vin­cent Lau­ren­sz van der Vinne record­ed in his jour­nal when he trav­eled with Du Bois to Cologne in 1652, they passed over 300 vil­lages with bell tow­ers and parish church­es.“8

While this draw­ing may have been made before that trip, Du Bois’s cap­ti­vat­ing appre­ci­a­tion of the charm­ing ham­lets in the more rural regions of the coun­try is clear.

The Witte Kerk at Noordwijkerhout
Fig. 31.4

The Witte Kerk at Noord­wijk­er­hout (photo by the author, Jan­u­ary 2019).

End Notes

  1. Schapel­houman & Schat­born 1987, no. 66; and P. Schat­born in Ams­ter­dam 2014, 145 – 46, no. 50.

  2. For the Bredius-Kro­nig sketch­book draw­ing, see Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 1, 266, no. 845/23; and Bui­jsen 1993, 47 – 48, no. 23. For the 1653 draw­ing, see Beck 1972 – 91, vol. 1, 162, no. 480. For a third draw­ing by Van Goyen thought to depict Noord­wijk­er­hout, though dif­fer­ences in the steeple and nave wall archi­tec­ture of the church cast some doubt, see D. Scrase in Munich, Hei­del­berg, Braun­schweig & Cam­bridge 1995 – 96, no. 12; and Beck 1972 – 91, 247, no. 819 (the lat­ter leav­ing the issue of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion aside).

  3. Brouw­er & Van Kesteren 2008, 45 – 85.

  4. Rade­mak­er 1725, vol. 2, 119 – 20, nos. 69 – 70

  5. For the his­to­ry of the Witte Kerk, see Ter Kuile 1944; Van Agt 1951; Berghuis 1972, 57 – 58; Bit­ter 1988; and Rinze­ma et al. 2000.

  6. Ter Kuile 1944, 170, cit­ing a doc­u­ment from 1618, te doen repa­reeren” the ruineus liggende” church. The restora­tion essen­tial­ly returned the church to its orig­i­nal but small­er Romanesque foot­print, with the Goth­ic expan­sions made in the apse from circa 1500 essen­tial­ly left in ruins. This was not an excep­tion­al cir­cum­stance; the church at Zand­voort also went through a nave-only” restora­tion around this time as well

  7. Van de Roe­mer-Bosman in Rinze­ma et al. 2000, 61 – 73. Appar­ent­ly, many of the vil­lagers had been revert­ing back to Catholi­cism since they could then be tend­ed by the trav­el­ing monks who often roamed the North­ern Nether­lands pre­cise­ly for the pur­pose of offer­ing sacra­ments to over­looked com­mu­ni­ties, and to recon­vert them.

  8. Slig­gers 1979, 48: over 300 dor­pen met klock toorens en parochij ker­ck­en.” The descrip­tion comes from the stage of their jour­ney that passed through Gelder­land on their way to Ger­many in 1652.