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"Figures Strolling by a Dutch Canal" (1859) | Charles Henri Joseph Leickert


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catalog text

Belgian, 1816-1907

Figures Strolling by a Dutch Canal (1859)

Oil on canvas | Signed lower right "Ch. Leickert f. 59"

Item # 204FDU28K 

A brilliant canal scene typical of Charles Henri Leickert's ouevre, this fine scene makes a mother and her young daughter strolling a dirt path the focal point of the intricately detailed composition with an almost supernatural light shining on them from an unknown source. Within the pale blue waters of the canal flowing along the right side of the picture, Leickert places a series of small fishing vessels drawn up to the shore with their sails brought in. This is a compositional choice he frequently employed in his work, the canal balanced almost exactly to one-third of the scene with a severe leftward [or rightward when the composition is reversed] angle, the bulk of the scene focused on the buildings and people on the bank and land.

Painted at the height of his career in 1859, the scene is an example of his best quality with intricate handling of the details in every element. Particularly striking is the nuanced texture and individuality of the brickwork on the tall building left of the figures. It stands out with such a variety of hues and tones, varying degrees of translucent shadows cast across the aged building with a roof in disrepair.

In his typical script, the work is signed lower right "Ch. Leickert F. 59".


  • With McConnal-Mason & Sons, London [label verso]
  • With Christies, London (South Kensington), Sale 8252, 31 January 2013, lot 8, achieved 18,750 GBP [prevailing exchange rate at time of sale 1.57 GBP/USD for an approximate sale price of $ 29,400]

Born in Brussels on September 22nd of 1816, Charles Henri Joseph Leickert studied at the Academy in The Hague and further studied under the landscape painters Bartholomeus van Hove, Andreas Schelfhout and Wijnandus Johannes Josephus Nuyen, who heavily influenced Leickert's preference for and composition of cityscapes. The three painters were some of the most highly regarded of the Dutch Romantic period and Schelfhout had a particularly strong influence on the trajectory of Leickert’s work; the similarities between their oeuvre is notable, particularly in his skating scenes.

Leickert focused all of his energies on Dutch landscapes, capturing vivid landscapes, rivers, mountains, windmills and many scenes of ice skating. He came to specialize in winter landscapes with a particular emphasis on the atmospheric romance of the sky and the play of light across pale blue and light pink skies against the elements below in the evening hours. His work was strictly focused on the Netherlands and he painted almost exclusively in his home country during his working years, first in The Hague from 1841 through 1846 and later in Amsterdam from 1849 through 1883.

Upon moving to Amsterdam in 1849, Leickert joined 'Arti et Amicitiae' group of artists and in 1856 he became a member of the Koninklijke Akademie. Towards the end of the 1850s, Leickert began to expand his studies to include cityscapes and even some beach scenes. This period would mark the height of his career, from roughly 1850 through 1870, as this time-frame saw a colliding of both an exceedingly high demand for his work and also the highest development of his skillset as an artist. Kraaij observes in his biography and catalogue raisonne on Leickert, "his paintings are carefully finished; elements such as vegetation and background are executed in particular detail.  The color contrasts are often surprising and the rendering of chiaroscuro is magnificent.” After spending time viewing his "View of Amsterdam in the Winter with Setting Sun" at exhibition, an art critic wrote

"Leickert has long managed to situate himself outside the school of Shelfhout-that is, to learn, to observe with his own eyes.  His View of Amsterdam in the Winter with Setting Sun is one of those paintings at which one might gaze for a long time to recover, as it were, all that is surprising and alluring about a sunset in December. The sky has a particular divine effect, being harmoniously rendered and incontrovertibly one of the most handsome of the Exhibition." [see Kraaij]

In order to meet demand, he often would create several versions of the same composition, sometimes changing small details or leaving out certain elements. The work of the Dutch landscapist was very much in demand for its distinct rejection of the Romantic School sentiments throughout the rest of Europe where landscapes were often infused with exotic and mystical elements. By contrast, the Dutch Romantics looked to the “Golden Age” of the 17th-century painters and sought to capture the tranquility and nostalgia of their homeland with its ancient towns full of interesting architecture, rural scenes dotted with windmills and rolling hills with rushing rivers exactly as they naturally existed. Leickert was a major beneficiary of this attention, as his work would become some of the most highly regarded of the period.

Like most of his contemporaries during this period, Leickert’s landscapes did not seek to be topographically exacting but rather to recreate the relevant and realistic essence of what made the Dutch countryside so inherently beautiful, arranging these elements in a pleasing and balanced composition. To this end, Leickert made extensive plein-air studies to utilize later in his work. Some 750 pencil sketches and several of his sketchbooks are today preserved in the Mittelrheinisches Landesmuseum in Mainz, providing critical insight into the preparatory process that went into his paintings.

At the age of 71, Leickert moved to Mainz, Germany where he died in 1907. He produced around seven hundred paintings in his lifetime, exhibiting eighty-five of these and his work remains some of the most highly sought-after of the Dutch Romantic School. His best work is characterized by brilliant color, fine composition of the scene with balance of all elements and painstakingly precise attention to detail with minute brushwork bringing out a full range of texture. Leickert's paintings are held in the permanent collections of museums around the world, including the Hermitage Museum, the Riijksmuseum, the Museum Paul Tetar van Elven in Delft, the aforementioned Landesmuseum in Mainz, Centraal Museum Utrecht and the Boijmans Van Beuningen among others.

Artist Listings & Bibliography:

  • "Charles Leickert 1816-1907: Painter of the Dutch Landscape", Harry J. Kraaij, 1996
  • "Dictionary of Belgian painters born between 1750 & 1875", Berko, 1981, p. 414–415

Measurements: 10 7/8" H x 14 5/8" W [canvas]; 16 1/8" H x 20" W x 2" D [frame]

Condition Report:
An exquisite presentation. Cleaned by our conservator and in pristine condition. Relined in the 20th century; canvas in fine condition, stable and with minimal craquelure; under UV examination, extreme edges of the painting with inpainting where frame would rub the surface, speck touchups in a few spots of the sky, one spot of touchup to the centermost cloud; housed in a contemporary frame with minor wear.