Jacob Cats (Altona 1741-1799 Amsterdam) A young man skating with a koek-and-zoopie in the background

Born in Altona (Hamburg), Germany, Jacob Cats was the only son of Johannes Cats (1699-1772) and his second wife Elisabeth van Rhee. Originally trained as an engraver and bookbinder, at the age of 18 Jacob became apprentice in the wallpaper factory Sollenburg of Jan Hendrik Troost van Groenendoelen (Dusseldorf, 1721-1794) at the Overtoomse Weg, Amsterdam by contract for a period of ten years. This would end prematurely after only three and a half year.[1]

Jacob produced his first wallpapers after original designs by "den ouden Heer Goll" (Johann Goll van Franckenstein Sr., Cats' friend and financial patron) in 1762 after leaving Sollenburg. He also worked with Egbert van Drielst and painted staffage for his paintings. After a short scholarships with Abraham Starre(n) (1701-1778) and Pieter Louw (1725-1800) Jacob became a pupil of Gerard van Rossum (Rotterdam, 1669-1772) for three years after which he was contracted by Troost van Groenendoelen. He became member of St. Lucas in 1764. Jacob married Anna Hemme(n) (1741-1811) and the coulpe had three sons. After breaking the contract with Troost van Groenendoelen and the death of his father and Jacob's three sons all in the same year of 1772 and as the market for wallpapers deteriorated, Jacob hardly made wallpapers anymore and provided a living with drawing exclusively. These drawings are strongly influenced by 17th century landscapists.[1]

Jacob was believed to have a photographic memory ("uyt de Gedagten") which enabled him to draw at home landscapes he had seen in the open with the greatest veracity of detail. Most of his drawings are the artist's own inventions and show capriccios composed of the most beautiful scenes he had seen in the open field. He used a specific order of numbering his drawings (the so-called "Pseudo-Goll van Franckenstein Numbering System") which enabled him to easliy compose new versions with slight variations of drawings which seemed successful on the contemporary market.[2][3]

It is also know that Cats kept a portfolio consisting of around 800 drawings from which prospective customers could choose subjects after which he would execute the drawings ordered.

The present sheet is a fine example of a highly finished drawing for the market executed in colour and with the greatest attention for detail showing Jacob Cats at his very best. The present drawing is closely related to the drawing sold in the rooms of Sotheby's, Amsterdam, 4 November 2003.[4]




[1] S.A.C. Dudok van Heel, 'Jacob Cats e.a. als behangselschilders in de fabriek van Jan Hendrik Troost van Groenendoelen', Maandblad Amstelodamum 59 (1972), p. 151-163

[2] L.A. Schwartz, 'The 'Thoughts' ('Gedachten') of Jacob Cats (1741-1799). Inscriptions on the numbered drawings of a prolific eighteenth-century draughtsman'. An addition to the list of Jane Shoaf Turner (1990)', Delineavit et Sculpsit nr. 31 (december 2007), p. 57-77

[3] J. Shoaf Turner, 'Jacob Cats and the Indentification of a "Pseudo-Goll van Franckenstein" Numbering System', Master Drawings 28 (1990), p. 323-331

[4] Jacob Cats, Winterlandscape with skaters. Sotheby's, Amsterdam, 4 November 2003, lot # 88. Previously in the collection of Bernard Houthakker. His sale, Sotheby Mak van Waay B.V. Amsterdam, 17 & 18 November 1975, lot #227.

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