Anton Mauve, at the end of the 19th century, was the leading Dutch landscape painter.
When his nephew, Vincent van Gogh, approached him for some painting lessons, he was only too pleased to oblige with a short course of watercolour and oil painting. The two soon had some arguments and van Gogh went his way.
Little could Mauve imagine that he, and the school of painting he was a member of, the Haagse School, only a century later, would be forgotten, even in their own country.
The Haagse School was the Dutch equivalent of the French impressionists,
and preceded them by some years. With his friends, Mauve aspired to return to the naturalism that inspired the great dutch art of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hobema and Ruijsdael, naturalism being art done for the LOVE of nature, and the major artistic motive for the latter part of the 19th century.
Turner, Monet, Constable, Renoir, Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, and even the pre-Raphaelites were naturalists.
In Holland the paintings reflected the Dutch landscape and its seasons. Mauve appears to have been particularly attracted to the mysterious mists of winter and autumn, and the tough but dignified rural life of the shepherds and cowherds. There is a beauty in his animals which moves us immensely.
I have often wondered why I like the work of the Haagse School so much more than that of the impressionists, whom I adore, and I have realised that it is exactly this animal and human element, missing from the French, which moves Dutch landscape art into a higher level. Van Gogh's great early work, "the Potato Eaters", is a near copy of the work of Josef Israels, who honoured the purity of the poor.
So Anton Mauve loved the fields, the people and the animals of the Dutch countryside, and he was loved in return by the people of Holland. His fame spread as far as America, where his work was in great demand.
Like so many others, he fell victim to the modern art movement which decried all nature loving art as rubbish. Mauve was forgotten. In 1982, I could find in Amsterdam only one picture from the Haagse School in the Rijksmuseum, and not a single book on the group.
But there was one person who loved and admired him to the end. In 1888, 2 years before his own death, Vincent heard about the death of his uncle. In honour of the great Anton Mauve, he gave the landscape he himself regarded as his best, the title :
"Souvenir de Mauve".