Barend Cornelis Koekkoek was born in Middelburg in the Netherlands into a family of painters on the 11th October 1803. He is the most famous member of the Koekkoek artist family and reinvented the genre of Dutch landscape painting.
Aged 13 Koekkoek studied at the local academy and attended the evening classes of Abraham Kraystein (1793-1855). In 1821 he was awarded a scholarship by the Dutch Government and studied at the Amsterdam Academy under Jean Augustin Daiwaille (1796-1850). After completing his studies in around 1825 Koekkoek moved to Hilversum and established himself as a landscape painter. He spent some years travelling around the Rhine, Ahr and the Ruhr before marrying Elise Daiwaille, his art teacher’s daughter, in 1833.
In 1834 Koekkoek settled in Cleves in Germany and specialised in painting woodland scenes and panoramic views of the Rhine Valley. He travelled extensively round Germany and Belgium, where he found inspiration for his Romantic landscapes. In 1841 he founded his own drawing academy, (das Zeichen-Collegium) in the German town of Cleves and was influential in elevating the genre of landscape painting.
Koekkoek’s paintings were highly sought after during his lifetime and by the 1840s he stopped exhibiting his works and only worked to commission. His landscape paintings were highly desirable on the art market and this led to imitations and forgeries of his work. From 1847 Koekkoek began to issue certificates and seals of authentication to his buyers because he took great pride in the fact that works bearing his name were by his hand alone.
Koekkoek’s paintings are not necessarily topographically accurate, but highly detailed imagined landscapes. He idealised panoramic views so that storms, woodland and weather effects were more dramatic and Romantic than in real life. During his lifetime Koekkoek was referred to as 'Prins der Landschapschilders,' (‘Prince of Landscape painters’) and his legacy continues today with his work being greatly sought after. He died in Cleves on the 5th April 1862 and his house and studio is now the Museum Haus Koekkoek in Cleves.