Johan Barthold Jongkind
Biography of Dutch Early Impressionist Painter.

Pin it

Le Pont Royal from the Quai d'Orsay
(1852) Salies Museum of Fine Art,

Johan Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891)


Early Training
Early Paintings
Bohemian Lifestyle
Landscape Painting with Monet
Impressionist Painting Style and Legacy

For an idea of the pigments used
by Johan Barthold Jongkind, see:
Colour Palette Nineteenth Century.

For more artists like Johan
Barthold Jongkind, see:
Modern Artists.

For top creative practitioners, see:
Best Artists of All Time.

For the best works, see:
Greatest Modern Paintings.


One of the best landscape artists of the mid-19th century, the Dutch painter and etcher Johan Barthold Jongkind was a highly influential pioneer of Impressionism, whose landscapes - notably atmospheric river and coastal scenes - had a major impact on his younger contemporaries, including Claude Monet (1840-1926). Indeed his plein-air painting techniques predated those of Monet, Sisley (1839-1899) and Pissarro (1830-1903) by twenty years. The famous 19th century art writer Edmond de Goncourt (1822-96), speaking of Jongkind's influence, declared in 1882 that all modern landscape painting of any worth descended from him. Active mainly in France, Jongkind's artistic ability was matched only by his alcoholism, which eventually led to his incarceration in an asylum. Edouard Manet (1832-83) considered him "the father of modern landscapes" while Monet acknowledged that Jongkind, together with the Normandy outdoor painter Eugene Boudin (1824-98), were the two most important formative influences on his art. For later Dutch painters who practised a modern French 'light' Impressionism, please see: Post-Impressionism in Holland (1880-1920).



Early Training

Jongkind spent his childhood in Vlaardingen and, although he was originally destined for the legal profession, his love of drawing led him to choose art as a career. In 1837 he travelled to The Hague where he received instruction in the Academy from the landscape painter Andreas Schelfhout (1787-1870), whose specialties included seascapes and meticulous winter scenes. Between 1838 and 1842 he studied painting at Massluis and in The Hague. In 1843, his watercolour painting, along with his talent for Realism, gained him a bursary which supported him for the next ten years.

Early Paintings

He met Eugene Isabey in The Hague in 1845 and spent some time in the latter's studio in Paris the following year. He also worked with Francois Picot and exhibited at the 1848 and 1852 Salons. In 1852 he received considerable praise from the critics, including the two famous writers, Charles Baudelaire and Emile Zola. In effect, his paintings were a sort of bridge between the Barbizon School of landscape painting and the coming Impressionism.

Until 1855 Jongkind drew most of his inspiration form Paris (numerous views of the quais) and from the Normandy ports such as Honfleur, Fecamp, Le Havre and Etretat that he visited in 1849. His watercolours and paintings reveal him as an accomplished craftsman in the Dutch landscape tradition, respectful of his subject but never overawed by it - see, for instance, Le Pont Marie (1851, Private Collection, Paris) and Etretat (1851, Louvre).



Bohemian Lifestyle - Alcoholism

His lack of success at the Paris Exposition of 1855 made him decide to return to Holland where he lived in Rotterdam, then Klaawall, and then Overschie until 1860. But he missed Paris and, encouraged by friends who were worried about the effect on his career of his absence in Holland, he returned to France. Unfortunately, his time in Paris was characterized by an extremely bohemian lifestyle, severe poverty and alcohol. In the midst of great financial difficulties, he fell into a depression from which he attempted to escape by drinking. And while it seemed to give him back his artistic inspiration and even helped him increase his work capacity, it eroded his mental health. His painter friends, Camille Corot (1796-1875), Theodore Rousseau (1812-1867), and Eugene Boudin helped him to overcome his misery on more than one occasion.

Landscape Painting with Monet

Between 1862 and 1866 he spent the summers in Normandy. In 1862 he explored etching, and produced his first series Six Views of Holland (he left 27 engraved plates), and exhibited the following year at the Salon des Refuses. In 1862 he met the Impressionist Claude Monet and the two men worked together on several occasions on the Norman coast. During these trips to Normandy, Jongkind painted numerous sketches and watercolours in the open air, for the sole purpose of capturing nature just as he saw it, using colour in all its different hues to capture the precise effects of light. After 1860 his treatment grew lighter, his touch more fragmented, and he allowed his colours to separate spontaneously so as to suggest the vibration of light - see, for instance, Effect of the Moon on the Estuary (1867, Private Collection).

During his numerous journeys to Belgium, Holland, Normandy and the Nivernais area, he painted principally in watercolour. Many of these works were designed as studies for further compositions, but increasingly, he painted watercolours for their own sake - see, for instance, Le Havre, Beach at Ste Adresse (1863, Louvre). He visited the Dauphine region in 1873, and in 1878 moved to La Cote St Andre, Berlioz's birthplace. In 1880 he made a journey to the south of France (Marseilles, Narbonne, La Ciotat), and between 1881 and 1891 returned each winter to work in Paris.

Impressionist Painting Style and Legacy

By now watercolour had become his favourite medium; his confident draughtsmanship, coupled with his ability to suggest swiftly and with intense accuracy both time and place, gained an extra dimension when allied to his fluid colour pigments, in which white played a large part. His style became freer as he abandoned preliminary drawings and began using a reduced range of colours in which yellows and ochres predominated - see, Snowscape in the Dauphine (1885). Jongkind's pioneering Impressionist paintings have a freshness and vision which result from extreme subtlety of execution. However, his numerous seascapes, painted with different climatic changes, different atmospheric conditions, and variations in light, are the paintings that provide the key to understanding Monet's later methods - the same methods that Jongkind himself perfected ten years earlier (from 1863-1864) - when he did a series of paintings of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in different daylight conditions. Although considerably less well-known than younger Impressionist painters, such as Sisley and Pissarro, Jongkind's legacy had an important influence on the evolution of 19th century landscape art, from Barbizon to Impressionism.

Note: For more about the development of Impressionist art, see the following: Impressionism: Origins, Influences; and also Impressionism: Early History. For the evolution of artistic methods, see: Impressionist Painting Developments.

In 1878, Jongkind went to Grenoble, but an alcoholic crisis drove him to madness, and he was committed to an insane asylum, where he stayed until his death thirteen years later. He was buried at La Cote St Andre.


Paintings by Jongkind can be found in some of the best art museums in Europe, notably in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, and the Musee d'Orsay Paris, as well as provincial galleries in Grenoble, Aix-les-Bains and Rheims. Here is a short selected list of his works.

- Le Pont Marie (1851) Private Collection.
- Quai d'Orsay (1852) Salies Museum, Bagneres-de-Bigorre.
- Le Pont Royal seen from Quai d'Orsay (1852) Bagneres-de-Bigorre.
- The Breakwater (1853) Fine Arts Museum, Angers.
- Six Views of Holland (1862) (Etchings).
- View of Notre Dame, Paris (1863) Private Collection.
- Le Havre, Beach at Sainte Adresse (1863) Louvre.
- Sunflowers (1864) Musee d'Orsay.
- Wooden Piles in the River Escaut (1866) Musee d'Orsay.
- The Maas at Maassluis (1866) Museum of Fine Arts, Le Havre.
- Skaters at Overshie (1867) National Gallery, London.
- Effect of the Moon on an Estuary (1867) Private Collection.
- Environs de la Haye, Holland (1868) Musee d'Orsay.
- The Road to Magny, near Nevers (1871) Musee d'Orsay.
- The Isere at Grenoble (1877) Musee d'Orsay.
- Snowscape in the Dauphine (1885) Private Collection.

• For biographies of other modern Dutch artists, see: Famous Painters.
• For more details of painting, see: Homepage.

© All rights reserved.