Josephus Augustus Knip (Tilburg 1777-1847 Berlicum) Studies of trees (Sabina, Italy, ca. 1810-1812)

The Neoclassicist painter and draughtsman Josephus Augustus Knip (Tilburg, 1777-1847 Berlicum) grew up in an artistic environment as both his father Niclaudius Frederik Knip (1741-1808) and father in law Drexler were painters, mainly producing wallpapers for castles and decorative paintings for the free market. Except for his eldest sister, 4 of 5 children from the Knip family became painters with Josephus Augustus as the most promising of all. The famous animal painter Henriëtte Ronner-Knip (1821-1883) was the daughter of Josephus Augustus and Cornelia van Leeuwen with whom Josephus Augustus had two children.[1][2]

Knip attended the drawing academy of 's-Hertogenbosch between his 10th and 13th and left unsatisfied. His earliest known works are a painting for the estate "Pettelaer" (1795) and 4 crayon drawings, all 5 works depicting the French invading 's-Hertogenbosch (1795-1797).

Encouraged by Gerard van Spaendonck (1746-1822) and to avoid the fragile market in Brabant, Knip left for France in 1801. Van Spaendonck also was born in Tilburg and had a prominent position in Paris as Professeur d' Iconographie at the Musée Nationale d' Histoire Naturelle, where he advised and assisted dutch artists. In Paris Joseph married Antoinette Pauline Jacqueline Rifer de Courcelles (1781-1851), the couple divorced in 1824 after an unhappy marriage.

In order to stimulate the artistic environment in his Kingdom, Lodewijk Napoleon applied the Dutch Prix de Rome to the national needs. This Royal Grant also allowed landscapists, printmakers, sculptors, architects and floral painters to be eligible for this commission which was originally intended to be for painters of history pieces only according to the French Prix de Rome. The élèves pensionnaires (kweekelingen) were sent to Paris and Rome for a period of four years during which they were instructed to lodge works of art annually to show their progessions. After these four years the kwekelingen were supposed to return to The Netherlands to support the National artistic environment. In 1808 Knip was one of the very first to receive this Prix de Rome commission, which enabled him to devote himself to an artistic development. In Paris Knip received lessons in perspective by the famous P.Ch. Dandrillon (1753-1812). The petition for Knip's Prix de Rome was signed by no less than Jacques-Louis David (1749-1825) and François Gérard (1770-1837).[3][4][5]

Between 1809 and 1812 Knip went to Italy to accomplish his scholarship where he spent most of his time in Rome and it's vicinity. Here he also made travels to Tivoli, the Sabine mountains, Naples, Terni, Palestrina and the lakes Albano and Nemi. In Oktober 1812 he returned to Paris again with 570 studies of which the vast majority were sapverven (the old dutch terminology Knip used for his drawings in pencil and wash) and 80 paintings; "ik rijsde in post en bezat tans een portfulje met 570 stuks modellen meest in sapverf en Olyverf". This portfolio would remain a life lasting and valuable source for his further career untill Josephus became blind in 1832.[6]

This full-size portfolio sheet shows the dead tree which Knip used for the idealized Neoclassical painting acquired in 1869 by Museum Boijmans van Beuningen.[7]

The existence of the present drawing, which is mentioned in the PDH thesis by Ellinoor Bergvelt of 1974 as well as in the extensive exhibition catalogue to the 1977 exhibition on Knip at the Noordbrabants Museum Den Bosch by Ellinoor Bergvelt and Margriet van Boven, was known although it's whereabouts remained unknown until it was rediscovered recently: "Er is geen voorstudie voor de compositie van dit schilderij als geheel over, wel een voor de dode boom op de voorgrond; de verblijfplaats van deze tekening is echter thans onbekend" (no preliminary study to the complete composition for this painting has survived, a study for the dead tree in the foreground has been recorded, though it's whereabouts are unknown). Another study to a tree in the Sabine valley is known and mentioned in the PHD thesis by Bergvelt. Our drawing numbered "68" and the other drawing numbered "67". [8][9][10][11]

In 2013 the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam purchased a large group of 46 drawings by Josephus Augustus Knip, which were part of the collection Prof. I.Q. van Regteren Altena (1899-1980). This set was purchased prior to the auctions organized by Christie's in London, Paris and Amsterdam. These drawings were made between 1809 and 1812 during Knip's visit to Rome and his Prix de Rome travels. Just like our sheet, most of these drawings are unfinished, in order to catch the sunlight as quick as possible.[12][13][14][15][16][17]




[1] Ellinoor Bergvelt, Margriet van Boven, J.A. Knip 1777-1847.
Noordbrabants Museum, 's Hertogenbosch, 1977.

[2] Fransje Kuyvenhoven, De Familie Knip; Drie generaties kunstenaars uit Noord-Brabant.
Waanders, Zwolle, 1988.

[3] Ellinoor Bergvelt et al., Reizen naar Rome : Italië als leerschool voor Nederlandse kunstenaars omstreeks 1800 (= Paesaggisti ed altri artisti : olandesi a Roma intorno al 1800). Teylers Museum, Haarlem, 1984. pp. 45-77.

[4] Gijs van der Ham et al, Nederlandse kunst in het Rijksmuseum 1800-1900.
Waanders/RijksmuseumAmsterdam, 2009. p. 96-97.

[5] Marius van Dam, Miscellanea delineata, Nederlandse tekeningen 1780-1860 uit de collectie Ploos van Amstel Knoef. Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2007. pp. 65-77.

[6] Josephus August Knip, Autobiography. 1819. Written on request by A. van der Willigen. This short autobiography in manuscript by Knip later published in Geschiedenis der Vanderlandsche Schilder-Kunst sedert den Helft der XVIII Eeuw by R van den Eijnden and A. van der Willigen. Haarlem, 1820. pp. 215-218.

[7] Josephus Augustus Knip, Italian landscape with goats (1817). Oil on panel, 604 x 477 mm. Signed and dated on the lower center "J.A. Knip 1817". Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, inv. no. 1406 (OK)

[8] Ellinoor Bergvelt, Margriet van Boven, J.A. Knip 1777-1847.
Noordbrabants Museum, 's Hertogenbosch, 1977. p. 133, no. 73.

[9] Ellinoor Bergvelt, J.A. Knip 1777-1847 - Landschapsschilder.
Doctoralthesis, UvA 1974. p. 35.

[10] Op Cit. p. 288, drawing no. 338

[11] Op Cit. p. 288, drawing no. 337.

[12] Ontmoetingen met Italië : tekenaars uit Scandinavië, Duitsland, Nederland in Italië 1770-1840. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 1971.

[13] Vereeuwigde stad : Rome door Nederlanders getekend, 1500-1900.
Openbaar Kunstbezit, Amsterdam, 1964.

[14] Michiel Jonker et al, In de ban van Italië : tekeningen uit een Amsterdamse verzameling.
Architecture & Natura, Amsterdam, 1995.

[15] J.A. Knip : een neo-classicist uit Tilburg. Tentoonst. t.g.v. het eerste lustrum van de Rotary-Club Tilburg-Oost. Rotary Club/La Barrique, Tilburg, 1975.

[16] The Unicorno Collection, fifty years of collecting european drawings.
Sotheby's, Amsterdam, 19 may 2004. Lots. 278, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327 and 333.

[17] E. Bergvelt, 'J.A. Knip (1777-1847). De werkwijze van een 19de-eeuwse landschapschilder in relatie tot de kunsttheorie in Holland en Frankrijk omstreeks 1800'.
Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 27 (1976), p. 11-71.

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