Charles Leickert (Brussels 1816-1907 Mainz) and Joseph Jodocus Moerenhout (Ekeren 1801-1875 Antwerp) Tending to the horses on a frozen river signed 'Jos. Moerenhout Ch. Leickert. f' (lower left) oil on panel 59 x 81 cm.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, Amsterdam, 23 October, 2000, lot 216, sold for fl. 624.000.
In 1827, at the age of eleven, Charles Leickert started to follow classes at the Drawing Academy in The Hague. Born in Brussels, his family had just moved to the Dutch capital of The Hague. At the academy he became friends with fellow students such as Wijnand Nuyen (1813-1839), Antonie Waldorp (1803-1866), Salomon Verveer (1813-1876) and Johannes Franciscus Hoppenbrouwers (1819-1866). His most important tutor at the academy was the celebrated townscape painter Bartholomeus Johannes van Hove (1790-1880) who instructed him on the fundamental principles of the academic tradition, focusing on the rendering of line and chiaroscuro after plaster casts. Despite the death of his father and the resulting shortage of funds, Leickert's mother insisted that her son continued his education and convinced the board of the academy that the young Charles deserved a scholarship for drawing lessons.
Once the talented Nuyen opened his own atelier in 1833, Leickert left the academy and joined his friend's new studio. Following Nuyen's untimely death in 1839 Leickert moved to the studio of Nuyen's tutor Andreas Schelfhout (1787-1870). This renowned landscape painter had great influence on the young Leickert, who made rapid progress and became one of Schelfhout's most prominent pupils. In a review of an exhibition held in 1844 it was noted that Leickert followed in the footsteps of his much-admired teacher. An art critic wrote: '... Mr C. Leickert, of The Hague, demonstrates with his winter scene [...] that he has turned the lessons of his master to good use...'.
Leickert would specialize in winter landscapes, the genre that had made his teacher famous. His other subjects were realistic landscapes and cityscapes in which figures were subservient to the landscape. In 1847 he was present at the founding of the Pulchri Studio in The Hague and he became a regular member of the artist's society 'Arti et Amicitiae' in Amsterdam. From 1848 onwards Leickert settled in Amsterdam, moving to the German city of Mainz in 1887.
The present lot is a rare and wonderful example of Leickert's collaboration with a befriended artist. Leickert's called in the help of Joseph Jodocus Moerenhout (1801-1875) for the staffage. This collaboration led to a surprising composition. In the majority of Leickert's paintings staffage is a decoration for his landscapes. However the figures in the current lot are no longer just embellishments but have become the subject of the painting. Unlike Leickert, for Moerenhout figures were the leading theme of his compositions. The emphasis on the figures was maintained because Moerenhout would paint his works seen from a lower point of perspective than Leickert, depicting his figures from eye-height and closer to the picture plane.
It can't be pure coincidence that the merger of their techniques and styles is so seamless. When focusing on details like the reflection of the Moerenhout's figures in Leickert's ice, it is obvious that both artist's joined forces without compromising their own talent and created one masterpiece and not two entwined pieces of art.