The Dutch landscape painter Johan Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891) was still struggling for a breakthrough when he was working in France in 1855, so he returned to the Netherlands, where he set up his studio in Rotterdam.
In 1857, he visited Paris briefly, where he dined with Gustave Courbet, Camille Corot, and Jean-François Millet, some of the major landscape painters of the day.
His sketchy mark-making was now plain to see in plein air landscapes such as this showing the Environs of Breda in 1857, a detail of which is shown below. This was painted in the countryside around the city of Breda, in the far south of the Netherlands close to Belgium.
By 1859, Jongkind returned to Paris, in the hope that the market there would be more receptive. That year he painted this view of Le Pont de la Tournelle, Paris (1859), with a small group of washerwomen at work by the water’s edge. This bridge is not far from Notre Dame, but Jongkind was more interested in those working women and the construction taking place on the bank at the right than a picturesque view for the tourist.
Recognising Jongkind’s continuing financial distress, in 1860 an auction of works by other artists was held for Jongkind’s benefit in Paris. He also met the painter Joséphine Borrhée-Fesser, who became his companion. Unfortunately she was married at the time, and her husband didn’t die until 1875.
Despite his poverty, Jongkind appears to have travelled away from Paris to paint. In 1861, he went to the far east of the country, near the Swiss border, where he painted this view of the Ruins of Rosemont Castle. Although not quite as radical in facture as some of his previous works, it was still far from the detailed realist landscapes of the day.
In 1862, Jongkind travelled again to Honfleur, on the north coast, where he met Alfred Sisley, Eugène Boudin, and Claude Monet. Over the next couple of years, the three painted en plein air together on the coast of Normandy. Jongkind also started to produce etchings, mainly of Dutch themes.
In 1863 Jongkind exhibited three paintings in the first Salon des Refusés in Paris.
I don’t know where this view of The Towpath was painted in 1864, but it’s possibly from a visit to the Netherlands, or north-east France. His horizon has fallen to a level more consistent with traditional Dutch landscape painting. There are three figures bathing from the bank at the left.
During the winter of 1864, he returned to the Netherlands, where he painted this Winter View with Skaters.
In 1865, Jongkind was at last more successful at the Salon. Three of his landscapes were accepted that year, and for the following four years, he showed two paintins each year there. I suspect that this view of a Little Channel on the Seine at Meudon from 1865 was among them. At that time, Meudon was a country town outside Paris, to the south-west and upstream of the River Seine.
By this time, the Impressionist vanguard of Jongkind, Monet and possibly Nicolae Grigorescu were leading the transition to full-blown Impressionist style, with its loose brushstrokes. Several others, including Renoir, Pissarro, Morisot and Sisley, were quick to follow.
This is Jongkind’s view of Rue Notre-Dame, Paris from 1866, which appears to be one of several roads of that name in the suburbs.
That summer, Jongkind returned to the coast, where he painted another view of the Quay in Honfleur (1866). He may have again been in company with other early Impressionists.
Throughout this period, it was Jongkind’s watercolours in which he was most radical. This sketch of a Windmill at Antwerp from 1866 is far looser than his oils. Sadly, although many of his watercolours have survived, images of them are far less accessible.
Jongkind was particularly enthusiastic to record the many changes which Paris and its suburbs were going through over this period. This view of Demolition Work in Rue des Franc-Bourgeois St Marcel (1868) was later turned into quite a successful etching by the artist.
By the late 1860s, the Impressionists were gathering in Paris and forming a movement. But Jongkind remained an outsider.
Association of the Friends of Jongkind
Sillevis J (2002) Jongkind, Aquarelles, Bibliothèque de l’Image. ISBN 978 2 914 66135 5. (An excellent in-depth account of his watercolours, extensively illustrated, and very reasonably priced. In French.)