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Dutch American couple built highly praised Dutch art collection

Amsterdam auction raised €2.8 million

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMSTERDAM - Sotheby’s recent Amsterdam auction of 19th Century European Paintings, which featured twelve master paintings from the Besselaar Collection, has grossed €2.8 million, well above the antipated €1.5 to 2 million. The collection of its Dutch-American owner represented all the important artists and genres of the Dutch Romantic School and included a panoramic landscape by Barend Cornelis Koekkoek, a lively winter scene by Andreas Schelfhout, a flower still life by Arnoldus Bloemers and several town views by Cornelis Springer and Willem Koekkoek.

A physician and a leading pharmacologist, Hein Besselaar and his wife Toni began to collect Dutch Romantic paintings in the 1980s and consulted a number of well established art advisers such as Simon Levie, the former director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The Besselaars built a collection of Dutch nineteenth-century paintings that represented every day life in the Netherlands in that period of time. Dr. Besselaar, who founded two pharmaceutical companies, died in 2004.

The sale of 19th Century European Paintings also included works by artists such as Jongkind, Henri Fantin-Latour, Verboeckhoven, Hermanus Koekkoek, Gabriel, Breitner, Isaac Israels and Mesdag.


Andreas Schelfhout’s canvas entitled Numerous skaters and a horse-sledge by a refreshment stall, painted in 1857, seen as one of the artist’s masterpieces, sold for €400.000. The painting shows masterly detailed figures, some gathered around a refreshment stall, while others are seen cheerfully skating. Experts call it a superb treatment of the translucent ice with its scratches and reflections of a great natural quality. As one of the most applauded landscapists of his time, Andreas Schelfhout (1787 - 1870) was universally admired for his beautiful winter scenes. Building on a grand tradition that had blossomed in the 17th century, Schelfhout acquired international fame with his perfectly balanced compositions, superb brushwork and masterful depiction of the ice and sky.

Also from the Besselaar Collection is the piece Travellers with cattle and donkeys in a Rhenish panoramic landscape, painted in 1840 by the most important landscape painter of Dutch Romanticism, Barend Cornelis Koekkoek (1803 – 1862).


The painting is called a wonderful example of Koekkoek’s unsurpassed virtuosity and contains all the elements for which his art became so famous. In the foreground, travellers can be seen overlooking a sweeping panoramic vista, divided into various levels. Art critics will point to the painter's mastery in even the smallest detail, like the leafs and blades of grass, each depicted with almost botanical accuracy.

The Besselaar collection was also on view at Sotheby’s in New York and London.