Dordrecht 1710 — 1792 The Hague
Study of a Standing Female Nude
red & black chalk. stumping. 356 x 231 (14 x 91/8").
The Dutch painter Aert Schoumann was also a printmaker, glass engraver, collector and dealer. Today he is best known for his naturalist watercolors of birds, plants, animals and insects. In this genre, he was unsurpassed in the 18th century. A collection of over 200 such bird studies can be seen at the Institut Neerlandais, the Lugt Collection, Paris. Drawings like the present study are rare in the artist's oeuvre. Were it not for a wholy comparable sheet that is signed by Schouman (and dated 1760) in a private collection which was exhibited at the Westfalisches Landesmuseum in Munster,1 it might have been quite difficult to ascertain the authorship of our drawing. Fortunately, the connection between the two studies was made by Robert-Jan te Rijdt of the Rijksmuseum.2
The use of red and black chalk in combination was not typical for Dutch draughtsmen of the period, particularly when drawing the nude. Rather it shows Schouman's knowledge and appreciation of the figure studies of Watteau which date a few decades earlier in the 18th century. In this deux crayons technique with a stumping instrument to create smooth tonal transitions, Schouman's drawing is exceptional. Like Watteau, he effectively uses the red chalk primarily along the contours of the figure often atop or just alongside the black chalk, pressing harder or lighter to define darker or lighter passages and suffusing the whole with a liveliness, suppleness, and animated, naturalistic color. His skill compliments the lovely, poised and graceful figure that he depicts. Not only is her elegantly long-limbed yet truly feminine body appealing, her delicate facial features suggest a calm and quietly assured manner. Though she undoubtedly was drawn from a live model, it is difficult to know if she was studied for use in a painting or if she was drawn as an exercise in the tradition of academies. Perhaps she was drawn for instructive purposes. Schouman would have been very familiar with the all-important practice of teaching young artists to draw from life; this was the single fundamental of art academies. Schouman had become a regent of the Hague Academy of Design in 1751 as well as having taken on pupils since 1733.3 Employing female models however, was definitely not common then and wouldn't be in Holland until the last decade of the 18th century. According to Dr. te Rijdt, "Schouman is one of the very, very few by whom we have a female academy nude."4
As for the provenance of this elegant study, it was most recently owned by a Dutch couple named Nijstad who had collected drawings for fifty years, amassing over 500, many of outstanding quality and almost all in very good condition. The condition of the Schouman Nude is, in fact, exemplary; the drawing has not been exposed to light and so is neither discolored nor faded; it has not suffered any surface abrasion nor rubbing; it has not been exposed to any acidic mounts or backings which would likely have left stains and so it has not been bathed in any bleaching agents. It looks, indeed, as the artist intended it to look; it has not been altered by unfortunate circumstances nor ill-conceived human interference. Prior to being in the Nijstad Collection, the drawing was owned by Prof. Regteren Altena, renowned scholar, director of the Print Room at the Rijksmuseum, curator of drawings at the Teylers Museum, professor of art history at the University of Amsterdam, and author of several important books on Jacques de Gheyn as well as numerous publications and articles particularly on Dutch 16th & 17th century art. This excellent 20th century provenance, together with the quality and beauty of this drawing, its terrific state of preservation, the rarity of its technique and subject for the period, all render this a desirable work of art.
See Reinhart Schleier, Neue Zeichnungen alter Meister, Munster, 1981, pp.147-148, cat. # 85, illustrated in color.
in an e-mail of June 18th, 2004.
Biographical information was obtained from the Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press, 2002, vol. 28, pp. 165-166. Richard C. Muhlberger was the contributor.
as in footnote 1.