Dulwich Picture Gallery I


Nicolaes Berchem DPG196, DPG122

DPG196 – Peasants at a Ford

1640s; oak panel, 44 x 55 cm
Signed, lower left: ‘B[…]’1

?European Museum, London, 16 Nov. 1801, lot 507 (‘Berghem – A charming picture of cattle and figures passing a ford, in the very best time of Berghem’); Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 34, no. 360 (‘[Closet to S: Drawing Room] contd. / no. 13, Landscape, cattle & figures – P[anel]. Berghem’; 2'1" x 2'5").

Cat. 1817, p. 6, no. 87 (‘FIRST ROOM – East Side; Landscape, with Figures crossing a Brook; K. du Jardin’); Haydon 1817, p. 377, no. 87 (Berghem);2 Cat. 1820, p. 6, no. 87 (Dujardin); Cat. 1830, p. 4, no. 17 (Dujardin); Jameson 1842, ii, p. 446, no. 17 (Dujardin);3 Denning 1858, no. 17 (attributed to Dujardin, Mommers or Asselijn); Denning 1859, no. 17 (attributed to Dujardin); Sparkes 1876, p. 10, no. 17 (Berchem; ‘Signed’); Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 11, no. 17 (signed ‘Berchem f’; ‘Very clever in the distribution of strong light and broad shadows’); Richter & Sparkes 1892, p. 51, no. 196; Richter & Sparkes 1905, p. 51, no. 196; Cook 1914, p. 124, no. 196; Cook 1926, p. 124, no. 196; HdG, ix, 1926, p. 161, no. 381; Cat. 1953, p. 10; Murray 1980a, p. 28; Murray 1980b, p. 7; Beresford 1998, pp. 40–41; Biesboer 2006b, pp. 18, 160, note 28 (influence of C. Vroom); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 25–6, 31; RKD, no. 285013: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/285013 (July 1, 2017).

Bath 1999, no. 1 (A. Sumner).

The panel consists of two oak members with a horizontal join. Some minor wear to the paint surface, but otherwise it is in good condition. Wood grain shows through the paint in worn areas, particularly in the dark passages. It is presumed to have been cleaned and restored by Dr Hell in 1952–3.

1a) Nicolaes Berchem, Le Passage du bac, signed BERCHEM f., panel, 50 x 70.5 cm. Louvre, Paris, 1040 (from the collection of the Stadholder, The Hague).4
1b) Nicolaes Berchem, Shepherdess remonstrating with a Man beating an Ass, pen and point of brush and brown ink, brown wash with some grey wash, over faint traces of black chalk, 24 x 35 cm. The Morgan Library, New York, I, no. 139a.5
2) Copy: Ralph Cockburn after DPG196, A Sunset (as J. Both), c. 1816–20, aquatint, 129 x 182 mm (Cockburn 1830, no. 39), DPG [1].6

This is a northern landscape typical of Berchem, with the emphasis on the trees, and with the staffage in a subordinate role. It seems likely that it is an early work, like DPG122 (q.v.), that similarly shows the influence of the landscape painter Cornelis Hendriksz. Vroom (1590/92–1661). Nevertheless, the central figure of the woman on a donkey – a leitmotiv of Berchem’s œuvre (see for instance Related works, no. 1a) – makes it clear that Berchem had already developed a distinctive style. A drawing in the Morgan Library is no longer considered to be a preparatory study for that picture, but rather a variation of it (Related works, no. 1b).

DPG196 was attributed to Berchem in the 1813 inventory of Bourgeois’ collection, and Haydon in 1817 attributed it to ‘Berghem’, but it was given to Dujardin in the Dulwich catalogues from 1817 to 1876. Keeper Ralph Cockburn (1779–1820) made an aquatint after it, confusingly saying it was by ‘J. Both’ (Related works, no. 2) [1]. In 1876 Sparkes noticed a signature and correctly reattributed the picture to Berchem. It seems likely that DPG196 was purchased – along with several other pictures – by Desenfans and Bourgeois from the dealers at the European Museum in the opening years of the 19th century.

Nicolaes Berchem
Peasants at a ford, 1640-1649
panel (oak), oil paint 44 x 55 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG196

Ralph Cockburn after Nicolaes Berchem
Sunset, 1816-1820
paper, aquatint 129 x 182 mm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery

DPG122 – A Road through a Wood

c. 1645–50; canvas, 119.5 x 89.6 cm, including an original addition of 7 cm along the lower edge
Signed, bottom right: CBerrighem (CB in monogram)

Insurance 1804, no. 87 (‘An upright Landscape; Berchem; £200’); Bourgeois Bequest 1811; Britton 1813, p. 15, no. 125 (‘Middle Room 2nd Floor / no. 3, Landscape: a woody scene, cattle, figures, horses – C[anvas]. Bergham’; 5'3" x 4'4").

Cat. 1817, p. 9, no. 158 (‘SECOND ROOM – East Side; A Wood-Scene; Berchem’); Haydon 1817, p. 385, no. 158;7 Cat. 1820, p. 9, no. 158; Cat. 1831–3, p. 9, no. 160 (Ruysdael and Berchem; in margin ‘+++’); Jameson 1842, ii, p. 468, no. 160 (Berghem; ‘Very rich and beautiful’); Bentley’s 1851, p. 347;8 Denning 1858 and 1859, no. 160;9 Ruskin 1873, v, pt vi (Of Leaf Beauty), ch. viii (The Leaf Monuments), §10, pp. 70–71, fig. 60;10 Sparkes 1876, pp. 10–11, no. 160; Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 9, no. 160 (‘An early work, rich and lively in colouring, especially of the trees’); Richter & Sparkes 1892, p. 31, no. 122; Richter & Sparkes 1905, p. 31, no. 122; Cook 1914, p. 72, no. 122; Cook 1926, p. 72, no. 122; HdG, ix, 1926, p. 151, no. 345; Cat. 1953, p. 10; Schaar 1958, p. 38, note 34;11 Stechow 1965a, pp. 113–14; Murray 1980a, p. 28 (‘Probably an early work’; influence on Gainsborough NG925 and DPG588); Murray 1980b, p. 7; Jansen 1985b; Beresford 1998, pp. 38–9; Shawe-Taylor 2010, p. 140, under no. 32; Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 26–7, 31; RKD no. 225934: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/225934 (June 28, 2017).

London/Leeds 1947–53, n.p., no. 1; London 1999b (no cat. no.); Williamsburg/Fresno/Pittsburgh/Oklahoma City 2008–10, pp. 36–7, no. 4 (I. A. C. Dejardin).

Medium-weight even-weave canvas. An original 7 cm addition along the lower edge. Some dark grey under-modelling over the buff-coloured ground. Dark grey painted underdrawing can be seen in the sky and around the branches in the sky. Lined onto fine linen canvas; no original tacking edges remain. Paint layers are generally in good condition. Fading is likely to have occurred in the foliage, and there has been some abrasion and increased transparency in the thinly painted brown areas in the landscape. There is a fine craquelure over the entire paint surface. Previous recorded treatment includes: 1866, ‘revived’; 1935, woodworm in frame and stretcher treated; before 1947, paste lined; 1947, relined using wax; 1957, Dr Hell; 1996, relined with glue paste, new stretcher, cleaned and restored, S. Plender.

1a) Nicolaes Berchem, Hilly Landscape with Shepherds, signed and dated C Berghem f. 1653, canvas, 66.5 x 82.5 cm. Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna, 1365.12
1b) Nicolaes Berchem, Landscape with a Peasant Woman, signed, canvas, 66.5 x 91 cm. C. Sedelmeyer, Paris; formerly O. Huldschinsky collection, Berlin.13
2) Thomas Gainsborough, Cornard Wood, near Sudbury, Suffolk, 1748, canvas, 122 x 155 cm. NG, London, 925 [2].14
3) Wood engraving of some branches, in Ruskin 1873, v, pt vi, ch. viii, §10, p. 70 (fig. 60).

Lent to the RA to be copied in 1854

A wooded northern landscape, in which trees occupy four-fifths of the painting. The figures, by Berchem's own hand, are relatively small. The two hunters firing a shot (lower right) add a seigneurial touch, in contrast to the peaceful atmosphere surrounding the groups of cowherds.15

The form of the signature indicates an early date, the late 1640s, according to Stechow, which would be consonant with the influence discernible in the landscape, especially the trees, of the painters Cornelis Hendriksz. Vroom and Jacob van Ruisdael (himself inspired by Vroom at the time). Schaar on the other hand considers that the figures are comparable to those in the Hilly Landscape in Vienna, which is dated 1653, and the undated HdG316 (Related works, nos 1a, 1b).16

This painting was praised even more highly than DPG88 at the beginning of the 19th century,17 and in general Berchem’s ‘Northern’ pictures were as influential for artists as his Italianate landscapes – including perhaps Thomas Gainsborough (1727–88), whose Cornard Wood (Related works, no. 2)[2] according to Murray owes a debt to this painting.18 Ruskin, on the other hand, in 1873 (with an illustration, Related works, no. 3) uses this work to demonstrate Turner’s superiority in rendering the structure of trees.

Nicolaes Berchem
Road through a Wood, c. 1645-1650
canvas, oil paint 119,5 x 89,6 cm
lower right : CBerrighem
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG122

Thomas Gainsborough
View of Cornard Wood, near Sudbury, Suffolk
canvas, oil paint 122 x 155 cm
London, National Gallery (London), inv./cat.nr. NG925


1 Beresford 1998, p. 41: ‘A signature, Berchem f, was recorded by Richter in 1880, but only a B (or cB in monogram) is now legible’.

2 ‘BERGHEM. “A Landscape, Figures crossing a Brook, &c.”’

3 ‘This charming painter is ill represented here: the best specimen of his style is No. 228 [she means 229, i.e. DPG82, Dujardin], but none are first-rate.’

4 RKD, no. 230253: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/230253 (June 28, 2017); Schaar 1956, pp. 217 (fig. 11), 218 (HdG328). According to Schaar the Louvre painting dates from the 1670s.

5 Turner 2006, pp. 33–4, no. 25 (pl. 3); Schaar 1956, pp. 217 (fig. 12), 218.

6 RKD, no. 285015: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/285015 (July 1, 2017).

7 ‘Nicolas Berghem. A Wood Scene, with Animals and Figures.’

8 ‘A wood-scene, near the Hobbima, by Berghem, shows some good foliage-painting; but the distance is too blue.’

9 ‘A distinguished and pure specimen of Berchem’s painting SPD’; Denning 1859, no. 160: ‘This is a genuine and distinguished work.’

10 ‘Then, if we turn suddenly to a piece of Dutch branch-drawing (fig. 60), facsimiled from No. 160, Dulwich Gallery (Berghem [DPG122]), he will understand, I believe, also the qualities of that, without comment of mine. It is of course not so dark in the original, being drawn with the chance dashes of a brush loaded with brown, but the contours are absolutely as in the woodcut. This Dutch design is a very characteristic example of two faults in tree-drawing: namely, the loss not only of grace and spring, but of woodiness. A branch is not elastic as steel is, neither as a carter’s whip is. It is a combination, wholly peculiar, of elasticity with half-dead and sapless stubbornness, and of continuous curve with pauses of knottiness, every bough having its blunted, affronted, fatigued, or repentant moments of existence, and mingling crabbed rugosities and fretful changes of mind with the main tendencies of its growth.’

11 ein Ruisdael nahes Waldbild, schlieszt sich in den Figuren an HdG 600 und 316 an (a painting of woods similar to Ruisdael, comparable in the figures to HdG600 [which is dated 1653]; Young sale, 1922 no. 106, now Vienna] and 316 [Sedelmeyer, previously Huldschinsky]). See also the two following notes.

12 Trnek 1992, pp. 56–60, no. 20. This picture is not HdG600.

13 HdG, ix, 1926, p. 142, no. 316 (not dated).

14 RKD, no. 296652: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/296652 (March 28, 2020); Egerton 1998, pp. 72–9, no. 925.

15 Dejardin 2008, p. 36.

16 See note 11 above.

17 Denning 1858, no. 160, cites Mrs Jameson, ‘very rich and beautiful’, and adds: ‘A distinguished and pure specimen of Berchem’s painting. SPD.’ Denning 1859: ‘This is a genuine and distinguished work.’ In a copy of one of the Gallery’s early catalogues E. (or C?) Carson between 1831 and 1833 added crosses in the margin next to some of the entries, scoring the works from one to five, like Michelin stars: this one had three.

18 See for Dutch influences on the young Gainsborough Foister 1997 and Moore 1988; Egerton mentions pictures by Ruisdael, Cuyp, Pijnacker and Saftleven in East Anglian collections as possible sources for Gainsborough’s early landscapes: Egerton 1998, p. 74.

Cookies disclaimer

Our site saves small pieces of text information (cookies) on your device in order to deliver better content and for statistical purposes. You can disable the usage of cookies by changing the settings of your browser. By browsing our website without changing the browser settings you grant us permission to store that information on your device.
I agree