The Dutch painter Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer specialised in scenes of mundaine life in Paris, where he had moved to at the age of 26 in 1865.
At that period leisure scenes set earlier, in the late 18th century Directory (“Directoire”), became fashionable. It was seen as a happy age with important and lasting social changes.
Our mountain climber wears indeed a bicorne referring to the Directory (though to us it is known as a Napoleonic hat). Mountain climbing started at the end of the 18th century: the Mont Blanc was successfully conquered in 1786.
About Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer
The Hague 1839 – 1902 Paris
Landscape, portrait and genre scene painter.
Kaemmerer started studying painting at a young age at the Royal Academy of The Hague; he was rapidly successful.
In 1865 he left for Paris at the invitation of the uncle of Theo and Vincent van Gogh (his name was also Vincent van Gogh), an associate of the French art dealer Adolphe Goupil (1806 – 1893). Thanks to this Vincent van Gogh Kaemmerer became a pupil of the Academic painter Jean Léon Gérôme (1824 – 1904), who is well-known for his historical, Greek Revival (“Neo-Grec”) and Orientalist paintings. He studied under him for three years.
After his move to Paris Kaemmerer worked until his death exclusively with Goupil, who had also contracts with famous artists such as Gérôme, Bouguereau, Boldini or de Nitis.
In Holland he had painted landscapes and peasant scenes. In Paris he chose for leisure time of high society, plus for elegant scenes from the Directoire period (1795 – 1799). Almost half of Kaemmerer’s artistic production was sold by Goupil to American collectors, among them William Henry Vanderbilt. Kammerer produced some 162 paintings since his move to Paris; only 11 stayed unsold at Goupil.
After his move to Paris Kaemmerer kept regularly travelling to Holland, especially to The Hague and its beach at Scheveningen, where he opened to an Impressionist style of painting.
About the Directory subject of our painting
Paintings representing late 18th century recreation scenes became popular in Paris from the 1860s onwards. French Directory (“ le Directoire”) had only lasted for four years and 5 days (1795 – 1799). It followed on the terrible reign of Robespierre (the Jacobin reign of terror) and was followed by the French Consulate (with Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul), which finally led to the crowning of Napoleon as emperor (in 1804).
Although it was a period of continuous war, economic depression and even famine it was also a key period of fundamental change, of the breakdown of the old system: the leading role of nobles and priests was taken over by the middle and upper classes. Huge fortunes were made overnight. Fashion became completely extravagant: these were the times of the “Incroyables and Merveilleuses”: long-haired men and women dressed in transparent dresses.
About early ascensionists and the sport of mountain-climbing
Any idea who was the first “modern” European tourist and mountain climber? The Italian poet and Renaissance Humanist Francesco Petrarca. He climbed on April 26, 1336, together with his younger brother and two servants to the top of the Mont Ventoux (1912 m) in the Provence, in France; just for fun.
The Mont Blanc, then part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, was successfully surmounted in 1786, that was three years before the French Revolution. Most Alpine peaks were reached in the first decades of the 19th century.
In 1857 the first Alpine Club was created in London; mountaineering had become a fashionable sport for rich, often aristocratic Englishmen who were accompanied by local Alpine guides. The English example was soon followed by other countries, by France rather late, in 1874.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a very early representation of mountain climbing, set in its beautiful gilded frame.