Private collection, California
Herman Ten Kate spent most of his life in The Hague, although he did occasionally travel to Amsterdam and Haarlem. Ten Kate was a member of the Royal Academy in Amsterdam in 1847. He was a student of Cornelis Krusemans from 1837 to 1841. Ten Kate generally depicted friendly genre scenes as well as scenes with soldiers inspired by the 80 Years War. His work is generally watercolors and lithographs.
Our piece, Interior Scene, offers a quiet scene in which two gentlemen are featured, each sporting extravagant hats, vests, and tall boots inspired by 17th century Guardroom scenes. One man rests against the back of a chair, his face marked with a serious expression, his left hand gesturing toward the other man seated at the table. The seated figure wears a rather bemused expression as he composes a letter, apparently taking delight in his endeavor. The two figures are surrounded by various objects cluttering the room, which Ten Kate employs for the specific means of compositional balance.
The various interior elements -- a long wooden table stretching from the back wall toward the foreground of the painting, pieces of shiny armor resting on the floor, a drum sitting in the back left corner -- are arranged in a loose zig-zag formation. The right side of the picture includes more physical objects, although they are balanced on the left by the use of bright cherry and blue tones in the drapery and curtains. Prudent use of color also functions as a visual path to guide the viewer's eye through the space of the painting: from the figures, to the red drapery, to the blue curtain, finally circling along the background wall to the right corner. As one's focus is directed around the room, the crisp textures and rich details may be fully appreciated.