This beautiful Dutch painting by Johan Barthold Jongkind was passed down to our client by their father. It had originally belonged to their great aunt, who was part of the resistance during World War II. Little is known about how this painting came to her, but it is believed that it may have been given in thanks after saving many lives during the war and surviving imprisonment at Ravensbruck concentration camp. The poignant backstory is now embedded within the sentimental value of the painting, creating a compelling need to ensure it is well preserved for future generations.
With this in mind, the owners of the piece came to our team at Fine Art Restoration Company with a huge weight of responsibility towards the personal history of the painting as well as its substantial monetary value. Following the restoration of various other household pieces, all of which had been damaged during a house move, they decided it was time to go ahead with the restoration of their treasured Johan Barthold Jongkind painting and its original gilt frame.
Above: a close up of the paint layer part way through cleaning – the original blue tones are becoming clearer
Jongkind – the father of impressionism
Johan Barthold Jongkind was an early influence on the impressionist movement, working throughout the 19th century in The Netherlands and France. Over the course of his work, he painted a specific scene in Dordrecht at least seven times, including his most famous work entitled Le Port de Dordrecht au Clair de Lune in 1868. Jongkind trained in Paris and later became a mentor to Claude Monet, also having a profound effect on the work of Eugène Boudin and Camille Pissarro.
Above: a detail from Jongkind’s Molens bij Rotterdam dated 1857 and a portrait of the artist by Gustave Courbet dated 1860
Jongkind worked with Louis Adolphe Beugniet and other well-known art dealers throughout his career. Although he was asked to be part of the first impressionist exhibition in 1872, Jongkind declined to be part of it, suffering from depression and alcoholism for much of his life. This was compelled by his new style of composition, which was controversial with art critics at the time. It was not until 2004 that any major exhibition would be shown of his influential work.
Our client’s painting is part of his famous Dordrecht series, showing the former city gate known as Groothoofd, where three rivers meet – the Merwede, the Oude Maas and the Noord. By the 19th century, this 14th century gothic building was home to a stylish hotel that also held weddings. Jongkind is likely to have painted this piece ‘en plein air’ across from the Groothoofd on the bank of Balkengat. The windmill in the distance further establishes the Dutch location of the evening scene, composed almost entirely in deep shades of blue.
Above: a detail from the Jongkind painting before restoration
Restoring the painting and frame
When the painting was assessed, it was found that the canvas was held in place by several pieces of wine cork, making it unstable and at risk of future deterioration. Our client was aware of the corks, assuming that her father had put these in place for a previous repair at home. The corks had only been discovered when the painting was inherited and taken off of the wall. Our conservators safely removed the painting and prepared it for conservation treatments, in this case it was decided that the surface required a sensitive clean and stabilisation.
Above: the Jongkind painting and frame half way through restoration
During the restoration, our team kept the owner of the painting updated every step of the way. Sharing everything from the first assessment findings, to the halfway points during the surface clean.
Alongside the conservation of the painting, the original gilt frame was also stabilised to ensure the artwork was returning to a safe and secure surrounding with a strong hanging mechanism. The gold leaf finish was revived by our experts, toning it down to allow for a suitable antique appearance that did not distract from the impressionist composition.
Above: the painting before and after surface cleaning
Following completion, the painting was professionally fitted into the frame by our conservators. Photographs of the completed artwork and frame were sent, much to the delight of our client.
The original framer’s stamp on the back was preserved and kept in place. This was a significant part of the painting’s history as it helped to further establish the painting’s provenance. The stamp was connected to art dealer Louis Adolphe Beugniet, who was known for his collaboration with Jongkind.
Above: a close up of the Beugniet stamp on the back of the canvas
Along with other items that had come to us for restoration, the painting returned home to be enjoyed for generations to come.
Our client’s response
Our client had this to say about their restoration journey:
How can we help?
If you have a treasured family heirloom, whether it is a painting, ceramic or an unusual item, our team is happy to assist further with the help of our trained conservators.
If you have any queries or would like to find out more about art conservation, please get in touch. Please email us via [email protected] or call 0207 112 7576