Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New York City's Early Artists (1)

Jacobus Strijcker

The little town of New Amsterdam was from the first a community of art lovers. Even those who could not read remembered the pictures and the public exhibitions at which they were shown, and it is not surprising to find during the brief period of Dutch rule half a dozen painters of more than average excellence. In point of merit the most important of all was Jacobus Strijcker, whose name is more often spelled in Colonial records Strycker and has become, as borne by his many American descendants, Striker. In 1643 the Dutch West India Company issued a grant of land to Jacobus Strycker and his brother Jan Strycker, on condition that they would pay for the transportation of ten colonists. There is no record that they brought over as many as the grant required, but, at any rate, they came with their families. In the light of the most recent investigation it is assumed that the portrait of Peter Stuyvesant in possession of the New York Historical Society is the work of Strycker.The Stuyvesant portrait justifies the statement which most critics will agree to, that Stryker's work is in the finished manner of the Dutch school, and the ablest in seventeenth century New York.

Evert Duyckinck

Even earlier in point of arrival was Evert Duyckinck, who came over in the service of the Dutch West India Company in 1638. Early records characterize him as "limner, painter, and glazier." For one hundred years, and during three generations, four members of the Duyckinck family painted portraits in New York, besides such decorative work as outlining in glass coats of arms and other decorations. Evert Duyckinck's sons were Gerret and Evert 2d. The most authentic example of the work of Evert Duyckinck is the portrait of Governor Walter Stoughton, of Massachusetts. Gerret Duyckinck is remembered by portraits of himself and his wife. To a third Evert Duyckinck are attributed portraits of six members of the Beekman family.

Benjamin West

In 1758 and 1759 the city was honored by the temporary residence of Benjamin West (1738-1820), the first American born painter to attain world celebrity. In that year he devoted himself to portraiture. Perhaps the most striking of his compositions, certainly the one most widely reproduces, is "Death on a Pale Horse," which is appropriately the possession of a Philadelphia Museum, since he was both a Quaker and a Pennsylvanian. In 1753 West began his career, and his portrait of Bishop Prevost is his best work here. During his long career in London, where he succeeded Sir Joshua Reynolds as president of the Royal Academy, it was his delight to render what assistance he could to the oncoming generation of American artists.

Robert Feke

The art of miniature painting speedily followed the close of the Revolutionary War, and at a time when the one outstanding name of a native New Yorker in painting was that of Robert Feke, there were a number of miniaturists at work. Robert Feke was born in what is now Oyster Bay, Long Island, speedily made a reputation as a portrait painter second only to that of Benjamin West. A number of portraits of nearly New Yorkers bear his signature, but the greater part of his work was done and is owned in Philadelphia.

Henry Coutrie (Sieur Henri Couturier)

Still another Dutchman, of Walloon descent, although for a long time he was rated as a Frenchman by the historians of New York art, came over in 1657 or 1658, Hendrick Coutrie, to give the ordinary Dutch version which would be more correctly rendered as the Sieur Henri Couturier. He was a deacon in the Reform Church in which Peter Stuyvesant was elder in 1670, a distinction which no subsequent New York painter has sought. His best known works which are in the possession of the New York Historical Society, are portraits of Oloff Stevense van Cortlandt (1610-84). Frederick Philipse (1626-1702) patroon of Philipsborough. The picture of William Nicholas Stuyvesant (1648-93), son of the Governor, represents him on horseback, and the figure worked is done so badly that it may possibly have been an attempt at humor. In 1663 Mevvrouw Couturier, who had gone into business in a retail line, received a demand from the municipality of New Amsterdam that she purchase her burgher rights. Her defense was that her husband had already received burgher rights, and that in return he had painted portraits of Director-General Stuyvesant and drawn pictures of his sons. As a consequence there was long a disposition to attribute to Couturier the Stuyvesant portrait which is reproduced in this work, and now recognized as from the brush of Jacobus Strycker.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My collection of books, History of New York State 1523-1927.Volume V Publisher: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc.-New York Copyright: 1927

To contact: miriammedina@earthlink.net

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