Private collection, USA
Born in 1875, in Rotterdam, as the son of an art dealer, Johan Hendrik van Mastenbroek became familiar at an early age with art and artists, such as Hague School painter Jongkind, and Barbizon artists Corot and Daubigny. By the age of seventeen, he had produced hundreds of sketches that later served as studies for many of his paintings. In 1893, when he was only eighteen, he was offered a contract for one year by an English art dealer, which led to displays of his work at major international exhibitions in London and New York. Mastenbroek won numerous awards, including a first prize medal from the Rotterdam Art Academy in 1897, and a gold medal in Munich in 1901. Over the course of his career, he exhibited his Impressionistic landscapes in Rotterdam, Bruges, Paris, New York and London. He was also awarded a special gold medal from Queen Wilhelmina of Holland. Mastenbroek remained in the city of his birth until 1911, when he relocated to The Hague. However, views of Rotterdam’s waterways and harbor comprise much of his oeuvre.
In the present example, Mastenbroek depicts a view of the Saint Jan Church, a sixteenth-century church located in Gouda, near Rotterdam. Saint Jan is the longest church in the Netherlands, and its solitary tower still dominates the Gouda horizon today. Famous for its stained glass windows, the church has been depicted by numerous artists. Mastenbroek paints a view of the Saint Jan’s on a clear day. A shimmering canal, its surface dappled with reflections of blue sky, umber and red brick, and violet clouds, lead one’s eye into the composition. Bare trees line the brick banks that encase the canal, heightening the perspective. In the distance stands the church: its high tower breaking the mass of cloudy sky. The arches of the church, and forms of surrounding buildings, are sketched in quick strokes upon a surface of thinly painted brown. Rather than focusing on the specific architectural elements of the famous structure, Mastenbroek concentrates his attention on the play of light and reflection upon its form. Still, a geometric, organized composition, and warm and earthy colors balance the play of light and water, lending the composition a sense of stability and permanence appropriate to its subject.
Mastenbroek’s works are included in numerous public collections. The Kunsthal Rotterdam held a major retrospective of the artist from April to September 2005.