In a forest clearing, two men saw a felled tree trunk with a double-handled saw while another man sits and watches on a nearby trunk.
The watercolor is signed by Anton [Antonij] Mauve who was born in 1838. At the age of sixteen, Mauve left for Haarlem where he was apprenticed to the artist Pieter Frederik van Os (1808-1892), a specialist in the painting of cattle, followed by an apprenticeship with Wouterus Verschuur (1812-1874) who painted horses. Together with Paul Gabriel (1828-1903), ten years his senior, Mauve would often go into the countryside to paint directly from nature. He married Jeanette (Jet) Carbentus, sister of Vincent van Gogh's mother, Cornelia Carbentus. Mauve was an important member of the mid nineteenth-century Hague School, which espoused drawing and painting in the open air. Moreover, following the lead of the French Barbizon artists, these artists looked for naturalistic native subjects. Mauve specialized in landscapes and rural subjects, seeking to revive the tradition of naturalism that had characterized seventeenth-century Dutch painting. In the winter of 1881-1882, Mauve gave his cousin, Vincent Van Gogh, a number of lessons in drawing and painting, reportedly introducing him to the watercolor technique. When Mauve looked critically at Van Gogh's first attempt at a still life, he told him: "I always thought you rather dull, but now I see it isn't true." However, incapable of accepting criticism about his work, Van Gogh broke off communications with Mauve in 1882. Mauve died in Arnhem in 1888.
Mildred Barnes Bliss acquired this watercolor in 1903, along with Cazin’s Landscape (Wheatfields) (HC.P.1903.91), before her marriage to Robert Woods Bliss in 1908. During Robert Bliss’s diplomatic career, she displayed it in the houses that they rented as well as later at Dumbarton Oaks. She must have particularly enjoyed this work, as she excluded it from the initial gift of their art collection to Harvard University in 1940, and kept it in her personal collection until her death in 1969.
Purchased from V.G. Fischer Art Co., Washington, D.C., by Mildred Barnes, 1/3/1903.
Collection of Mildred Barnes, New York, New York, 1/3/1903-4/14/1908.
Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C., 4/14/1908-1/17/1969.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, D.C.