Abraham Blommaert’s reputation restored
A small landscape in Bredius’s private collection is inscribed in a fine calligraphic hand with the signature ‘A.Blommaert’. It belongs to a group of landscapes at one time attributed to Adriaen Bloemaert. Bredius, however, doubted whether this Utrecht artist was indeed the painter of these landscapes.
Adriaen Bloemaert (Utrecht 1610/1613 – 1666 Utrecht) was born into a celebrated family of artists. Yet he is only known for a few rather inelegant religious pictures painted in the Italian style. These currently hang in a church in Salzburg. They have nothing in common with the delicately drawn landscapes, one of which was owned by Bredius.
Bredius’s archive research
It was in the 1920s, while studying the archives of the Zeeland artists, that Bredius discovered the trail of a certain Abraham Blommaert of Middelburg. Later, he found more details about the latter’s work in an old auction catalogue of 1770. On 17 September of that year around 300 paintings and 1,800 drawings were sold at Schildersconfrerie Pictura in The Hague. Among these was a landscape by Blommaert: ‘nr.37. Bloemaart [A] zijnde geweest een Schoolmeester in Zeelandt. Een bergagtig Landschap, met Beelden en Beestjes gestoffeert, zeer kwik en aardig geschildert, A[nn]o 1662, op p[aneel]. [Hg] 13 [Br] 18′ (No. 37. Bloemaart [A] formerly a schoolmaster in Zeeland. A mountainous landscape featuring sculpture and figures, vividly and nicely painted, A[nn]o 1662, on panel. [H] 13 [W] 18). For Bredius this was the clue that linked the rather dull landscape in his collection with the forgotten artist Abraham Blommaert. His unpublished notes, kept at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) in The Hague, contain the following comment: ‘Abraham Blommaert […] Middelburg. Die Frage ist möglich, ob die A.Blommaert bezeichnete Landschaften in Utrecht und Rotterdam nicht von seiner Hand sind’ (Abraham Blommaert […] Middelburg. The question is, whether the landscapes in Utrecht and Rotterdam attributed to A.Blommaert are indeed by his hand).
Bredius’s question can now be answered in the affirmative. In 1996 the art-historical periodical Oud Holland, on which Bredius himself had worked for over 60 years, published a detailed article by art historians Maarten Jan Bok and Marcel Roethlisberger entitled Not Adriaen Bloemaert but Abraham Blommaert (of Middelburg), Landscape painter. Here the authors attributed no less than 77 paintings, some known only from old descriptions, to Blommaert.
River Landscape with City on a Hill
The landscape presented here by Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder obviously belongs alongside the other works currently attributed to Abraham Blommaert. Typical characteristics are the clear atmosphere, the surprising touches of colour and the finely drawn silhouettes of people, animals and trees. These are highly innovative, almost precursors of the nineteenth-century German Romantics. The splendid calligraphic signature seems to suggest Blommaert’s occupation as schoolmaster. And the 1770 description of his work as ‘vividly and nicely painted’ is indeed a fitting characterisation of the paintings of Abraham Blommaert, this artistic teacher from Middelburg.
Abraham Blommaert appears to have been born in Middelburg around 1626. In the financial year of 1657/1658 Blommaert paid his enrollment fee for the St Luke’s guild at Middelburg and registered as an artist painter. In subsequent years the archives regularly mention his name, consistently associating him with two professions: painter and schoolmaster. Until 1671 Abraham Blommaert continued to pay his St Luke’s guild fees. But then affairs took a turn for the worse. Indeed, in 1675 he was summonsed by the town treasurer of Middelburg for failing to pay his property tax for the years 1672/1674. Not long after, he was dead. In 1679 his wife is mentioned as a widow.
Middelburg c. 1626 - after 1675? Middelburg
River Landscape with City on a Hill
Signed: A.Blommaert (bottom left)
Panel, 16.8 x 22.5 cm
Hoogsteder & Hoogsteder, The Hague