Pencil, pen and ink and watercolour and gum arabic, watermark numeric IV, on laid paper, inscribed in pencil and in pen and grey ink [over the pencil] by the artist van den best tot onder gelk met de poote, end zoo lang alo deze streep in tleven [it is the best likeness I can give with my hand and it will last as long as this line will live], also inscribed on the old backing board Limos me lanura Marel of Grutto Holland/ A Schouman
357 x 247 mm. (14 x 9 3/4 in)
Including frame and matt: 26 1/4 x 21 1/2 in.
Condition: There is very minor time staining in the margins, there is a repaired tear in the upper margin, otherwise the watercolour and paper are in an excellent condition. The drawing is hinged with conservation paper on the verso to the conservation mount.
Aert Schouman is regarded today, as well as in his day, as one of the unrivalled watercolourists of the period. Around the age of 15 he began an 8 year apprenticeship with Adriaan van der Burg in his native Dordrecht. After his masters death Schouman became an independent artist, earning his living chiefly as a painter of portraits and wall hangings, although he accepted more modest commissions. Like many of his colleagues Schouman also worked as an art dealer. Beginning in 1735 he received commissions from the province of Zeeland, where his brother Cornelis was active as painter. From around 1748 he lived alternatively in Dordrecht and The Hague. It was in The Hague, where the stadtholder had his court, that Schouman came into his own as an artist. Niemeijer regarded Schoumans, rendering of animals and birds, some in oils, but most in watercolour, are probably his most important contribution to eighteenth-century Dutch art. In them he combined an exceptionally radiant palette with a rapid, transparent handling of the brush and an assured mise en page. 1
The Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) is a large, long-legged, long-billed shorebird first described by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. It is a member of the Limosa genus, the godwits. There are three subspecies, all with orange head, neck and chest in breeding plumage and dull grey-brown winter coloration, and distinctive black and white wing bar at all times. Its breeding range stretches from Iceland through Europe and areas of central Asia. Black-tailed Godwits spend winter in areas as diverse as the Indian Subcontinent, Australia, western Europe and west Africa. The species breeds in fens, lake edges, damp meadows, moorlands and bogs and uses estuaries, swamps and floods in winter; it is more likely to be found inland and on freshwater than the similar Bar-tailed Godwit.
The present watercolour is comparable to many pictures by the artist of birds, including these three which have been published Condor, the king of the Kites; Pair of ducks at the waterside and Crowned Pigeon.2
These following watercolours of birds are also very comparable to our drawing and were in The Unicorno Collection and sold in 2004, A Crested Oropendula and An Adult and a Juvenile Night Heron.3
Another closely comparable watercolour is of Two Doves on a Branch from the Ploos van Amstel Knoef collection in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. According to van Dam Schouman made these types of drawings the drawings background; he painted it from his imagination with a brush. The background generally depicted the area from which the bird came. Schouman was able to sell many of his studies because there was a huge market from them among both collectors of drawings and collectors of unusual flora and fauna. As far as the artist himself was concerned, however, they would have essentially remained studies that he could use in larger compositions or his wall coverings.4
Additionally Laurens Bol has written Schoumans watercolour depictions of birds can be divided into two groups, according to the nature and requirements of the subject. First, there are the portraits, some of a single bird, others of two or three grouped together sitting on the branches of a sketchily drawn, moss-covered tree or trunk. This aptly describes our drawing.5
1.J.W Niemeijer, Eigtheenth-Century Watercolours, from the Rijksmuseum Printroom Amsterdam, 1993, p.124.
2.L.J. Bol, Aart Schouman, Ingenious Painter and Draughtsman, Doornspijk, 1991, Number 64, page 80; Number 65, page 82; Number 67a, page 87.
3.Sothebys Amsterdam, 19 May 2004, lots 205 and 218.
4.Marius van Dam, Miscellanea delineate, Dutch drawings, 1780-1860 from the Ploos van Amstel Knoef collection in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, pp110-111, cat.no.29.
5.L.J. Bol, op.cit, p. 81.