An Appreciation: Johan Barthold Jongkind
Johan Barthold Jongkind was a 19th century Pre-Impressionist Dutch artist. Claude Monet described him as having “a talent that is beyond words.”
Jongkind was born in Lattrop in the eastern part of The Netherlands on June 3, 1819. He was the eighth of ten chldren. The family moved, first to the river town of Vlaardingen and later to the great port of Rotterdam, where hs father was appointed a customs tax collector. Thus, Jongkind was exposed to the coast and the sea at an early age.
At first, Jongkind planned to become a lawyer but his love of drawing drew him toward art. After the death of his father in 1816, Jongkind moved to The Hague to study at the Academy of Art under Andreas Schelfhout. As a result of these studies, Jongkind developed a traditional Dutch landscape style.
Recognized as a promising young artist, the financially-pressed Jongkind received a grant from from King Wilhelm-Frederik II.
In 1845, Jongkind was introduced to Eugène Isabey who recognized his talent and invited him to come to Paris to study in his studio. Jongkind accepted and arrived in Paris in March 1846. During his stay in Paris, Jongkind met many artists including those of the Barbizon School as well as intellectuals such as Charles Baudelaire. Gradually, Jongkind's palette became brighter. In addition, he developed a way of working in which he would make watercolor paintings while looking at a scene and use those paintings combined with his memory to make finished oil paintings in the studio.
Jongkind focused on scenes of Paris, particularly the quays. He became interested in the life of the city as it entered the industrial age. However, in 1847, he traveled with Isabey to the Normandy coast where he found inspiration in its beaches, towering cliffs and in its harbors. He would return again and again to Normandy.
The Paris Salon of 1848 accepted one of his works for exhibition and he received critical praise from Baudelaire and later from Emile Zola. However, it was a turbulent time in Paris. There were barricades in the streets near Jongkind's home in Montmartre as the Revolution of 1848 toppled King Louis-Philippe. Perhaps because of the unrest, Jongkind's mother wrote asking him to come home and the artist did so.
While in Holland, Jongkind produced a series of watercolors for the Prince of Orange. When the Prince became King Wilhelm III, he arranged to have Jongkind receive a government stipend. This enabled Jongkind to return to Paris.
As a result of the more liberal atmosphere of the Second Republic, the Paris Salon was, for awhile, more open to different styles of art. Jongkind received a silver medal at the Salon of 1852. His art was also beginning to sell. The art dealer Adolphe Beugniet began to handle his work. Later, Pierre-Firmin Martin undertook to exhibit promote Jongkind's work at his gallery.
Although his works were selling, Jongkind was amassing considerable debt. This was partly do to his excessive drinking but it was mostly due to his inability to manage his financial affairs. Adding to his problems, the Dutch government suddenly and without explanation, ended the stipend that it had been paying to Jongkind. Then, he failed to receive a medal at the Paris Salon of 1855. Already depressed, news came that the artist's mother had died.
Feeling defeated, Jongkind returned to Rotterdam where he stayed for five years. During this time, he continued to paint and his works continued to sell. However, his financial mismanagement also continued.
His friends in Paris intervened, organizing an auction of works on behalf of Jongkind. 86 artists and collectors including Camille Corot participated, raining more than 6,000 francs. One of their number, Adolphe-Felix Cals, was dispatched to Holland with the money to pay off Jongkind's debts and bring him back to France.
Despite his friends intervention, Jongkind's life did not really change until one day when he was at Pierre-Fermin Martin's gallery and met Joesphine Borrhee-Fesser. A native of Belgium, Madame Fesser had come to Paris to study art and was friends with Martin. Jongkind and she struck up an instant friendship and soon the two became partners. Living together in Montparnasse, she took over the management of Jongkind's financial affairs.
In August 1862, the couple undertook a trip to Normandy that would change the curse of art history. While staying in Le Havre, they met a young unknown artist who was anxious to meet other landscape artists. The young man accompanied Jongkind on various painting expeditions during which the young artist was impressed by Jongkind's approach to landscape painting and to capturing light effects. Claude Monet recalled it later as being a key moment in the birth of Impressionism.
Monet subsequently introduced Jongkind to his mentor Eugene Boudin. Through Monet, Jongkind came to know other members of the Impressionist circle.
Jongkind further cemented his avant garde credentials when a painting he had submitted to the Paris Salon of 1863 was rejected. The Salon jury had again become very conservative and rejected an unprecedented percentage of submissions that year. In response to public protests, Emperor Napoleon III ordered that an exhibition of the rejected paintings be held so that the public could judge for themselves whether the rejections had been warranted. Along with Edouard Manet and James McNeill Whistler, Jongkind exhibited at the now-famous Salon des Refuses.
In 1870, Napoleon III did something with much more disastrous consequences - - he declared war on Prussia. Jongkind and Madame Fesser spent the conflict in various cities in southern France away from the fighting. In the process, Jongkind's work was exhibited in cities other than Paris, which made Jongkind known outside of Paris. His works were also exhibited in England.
The Paris Salon of 1873 rejected Jongkind's submission. Jongkind never again submitted a work to the Salon.
Tired of the Salon's attitude, a group of artists decided to hold their own alternative exhibition, which would be free of juries and prizes. Considering Jongkind's influence on Impressionism and his friendship with Monet, it is not surprising that Jongkind was invited to exhibit at the First Impressionist Exhibition in 1874. Even though Jongkind's art dealer Pierre-Ferrin Martin was involved and even though the exhibition was to be held in the studio of anther of Jongkind's friends, Jongkind, like Manet and Whistler, declined the invitation. He did, however, attend the exhibition.
During the remainder of the 1870s and the 1880s, Jongkind's work was well-received and continued to sell at increasingly higher prices. Under Madame Fesser's management, this income was not squandered and Jongkind's financial problems were behind him. In 1878, the couple settled at La Cote-Saint-Andre near Grenoble. They still continued to travel around France and in the winters Jongkind would make sojourns to his Paris studio to work.
Jongkind's tale, however, does not have a happy ending. From time-to-time, Jongkind had been subject to delusional outbursts and depression complicated by excessive drinking. In early 1891, these outbursts became worse and he was admitted to a mental asylum. He died there in September 1891. Madame Fesser died a few months later.
From the time of his arrival in Paris in 1846, Jongkind painted scenes of the city. Above: "Boulevard de Port-Royal." Below: "View from the Quay d'Orsay."
Above: "The Seine and Notre-Dame in Paris."
Below: "Rue Nortre-Dame in Paris."
Jongkind was also inspired by the Normandy coast and its ports. Above: "Honfleur". Below: "Boats near the Mill at Honfleur."
Jongkind painted in watercolors when he was in front of his subject. He would then use these paintings along with his memory to create oil paintings in the studio.
Above: "Overschie in Moonlight".
See our profiles of these other Impressionists and members of their circle.
Pierre Auguste Renoir
Artist appreciation - Johan Barthold Jongkind