My first reaction when I saw The road home by Anton Mauve was: ‘I can’t believe how filthy this painting is!’ Still fresh in my mind was the splendid version in the Toledo Museum - otherwise known as ‘the wettest painting in Dutch art history’ - which I had seen in the summer of 2010 in the exhibition The discovery of the Netherlands, in Apeldoorn. My first advice to the owners, therefore, was to take the painting to a conservator who would be able to restore it to its original beauty.
A few months later the conservator sent me some photographs of the cleaning process, with the following message: ‘Take a look in the kitchen: it’s going to be a beautiful symphony in grey tones.’ Those words sum up perfectly the nature of Mauve’s painting, for The road home is essentially a delicate and subtle harmony of greys, which convey the melancholy atmosphere of the scene and give it its desolate character.
Mauve painted The road home in his Hague period. It is a prime example of The Hague School and shows the path to the dune area of Dekkersduin where the artist had a studio built shortly before settling in The Hague. In the tranquility of his new studio he painted classic Hague School subjects such as tow horses on the beach and scenes such as the one here, of the quiet road to Dekkersduin on a rainy day - always rendering several versions of the same scene.
Many of these versions, including the one now hanging in the Toledo Museum of Art, went straight to American buyers, often wealthy industrialists who regarded these works as the ‘true modern art’ of their time. Industrialists in Eindhoven in the meantime were equally drawn to these simple and atmospheric landscapes, viewing them as ‘their’ modern art and also began to collect them. The gallery that represented this group was Van Wisselingh & Co in Amsterdam. The early twentieth-century collecting culture of Eindhoven was the subject of an exhibition at the Van Abbe Museum in 1960, called Eindhoven collects. The exhibition brought together many of the finest Hague and Amsterdam School paintings in private collections and rightly paid tribute to the people who had bought them: the Philipses, the Schellenses and other Eindhoven families.
Astonishingly the Singer Museum in Laren did not yet possess an Anton Mauve of this kind. In 2011 it acquired The road home (https://www.singerlaren.nl/).