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Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

Willem Bartel van der Kooi

Portrait of Dr. Gooitje Stinstra

32 ½ x 26 inches (82.55 x 66.04 cm.)


The neoclassical painter Willem Bartel van der Kooi spent much of his career in Friesland where he received his most important commissions. Although he painted genre, the majority of his work was portraiture. Born into a prominent family, he was interested in art from an early age and at 12 apprenticed to a local firm of painters and decorators. Further study followed at the Koninklijke Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam; the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent; and the University of Franeker. His masters included Harmen Wouter Beekkerk, Wessel Pieter Ruwersma, Frans Jurjens Swart and Johannes Verrier.[1]

By 1798 Kooi was himself a lecturer in the Art of Drawing at the University of Franeker. There he was held in high regard by his many pupils, and the influence of his French neo-classical style on the entire 19th century Frisian School of painting is undeniable. A teacher of both men and women, notable pupils include Otto de Boer, Cornelis Bernardus Buijs, Anna Charlotte Didier de Boncoor, Gabinus Fellinga, Wijtze de Haan, Douwe Hansma, Wilhelmina Geertruida van Idsinga, Jan Rijk Matthijssen, Jan Hendrik Nicolaij and Albert Gerrits Swart among others.[2]

In 1808 he exhibited at the first national art – exhibition in Amsterdam overseen by King Louis Napoleon and won the prize for best “tableau de genre” with Lady Being Handed a Letter by a Servant also called The Love Letter now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. After which his work came to be in constant demand. Portrait commissions that followed included several of King Willem I (a full length by the artist is in Paleis Het Loo Nationaal Museum, Apeldoorn) and Queen Wilhelmina, as well as government officials, fellow artists from Amsterdam, and his social circle in Friesland.[3]

Other museums in which Kooi’s work formed part of the permanent collections include the cities of Brussels, Franeker, Groningen, Harlingen, a large grouping in Leeuwarden, Leiden, Kampen, Middleburg, Rotterdam, and Zwolle among others.

Noted for an individualistic approach to his sitters, Kooi’s portrait of Dr. Gooitje Stinstra is particularly remarkable. Born in Franeker on March 5, 1772, he worked as a physician in Harlingen. His parents were Pieter Gooitjens Stinstra and Neeltje Schellingwou. In 1799 he married Anna Huidekoper. His death was recorded in Harlingen on April 18, 1813. Although little else is known of Dr. Stinstra his portrait is quite revealing. Close in age to Kooi, one feels as if the painter felt a certain kinship to his sitter. Devoid of all accoutrements, set against a stark background, we are presented with an image of a “modern” man with his enigmatic smile and extended right hand animating the portrayal. The simplicity of his dress, a black frock coat, grey waistcoat with high collar, white jabot, and his own hair pulled back in a black ribbon comprises his understated elegance.

[1] Biographical information from C. Boschma, op.cit., pp.101 – 102; “Willem Bartel van der Kooi” at Rijksmuseum on; and “Willem Bartel van der Kooi” on (RKD Explore) website.

[2] C. Boschma, op.cit., pp. 101, 103 - 104; and “Willem Bartel van der Kooi” on, op.cit.

[3] C. Boschma, op.cit., pp. 102 - 104.

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