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Oil painting - Game Keeper and Woman at Cottage Door
  • Game Keeper and Woman at Cottage Door
    Dillens, Hendrik Joseph, born 1812 - died 1872
  • Enlarge image

Game Keeper and Woman at Cottage Door

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Brussels (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    1858 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Dillens, Hendrik Joseph, born 1812 - died 1872 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Joshua Dixon

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, room WS, case R, shelf 30, box R

Hendrick Joseph Dillens (1812-1872) was probably born in Ghent and studied at the Academy there. Little is known about his life but, like his brother, Adolphe-Alexandre Dillens (1821-1877), he was active as a painter and etcher. He had two sons, the painter Albert (b 1844), who produced fishing scenes, portraits and a few religious works, and the sculptor Julien Dillens (1849-1904).

This painting is a good example of Dillens' large production of genre painting, a category in which he specialised like many other artists of his generation. The genre imagery, epitomised during the 17th century in the Netherlands, was still much appreciated in the 19th century and Belgian artists, as well as their Dutch fellows, perpetuated this trend. They favoured humble anecdotic subjects such as the present one, with which they often had a direct contact.

Physical description

An old soldier woos a young girl leaning against a cottage door; she is wearing a white headdress and a pink garment that echoes the soldier's red undervest; some foliage are running along the house's façade.

Place of Origin

Brussels (probably, painted)


1858 (painted)


Dillens, Hendrik Joseph, born 1812 - died 1872 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

'H. Dillens Bues. 1858'
Signed and dated by the artist, lower right


Height: 40.6 cm approx., Width: 33.6 cm approx.

Object history note

Bequeathed by Joshua Dixon, 1886
Ref: Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, (Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990), p.xx.
Joshua Dixon (1811-1885), was the son of Abraham Dixon of Whitehaven and brother of George Dixon (who was head of the foreign merchants firm of Rabone Brothers in Birmingham 1883-98). Educated at Leeds Grammar School, and was deputy chairman of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company 1869-70. Died Winslade, near Exeter, 7 December 1885. Bequeathed all his collection of drawings, watercolours and oil paintings to the Bethnal Green Museum; they have since been transferred to the V&A. He also collected engravings, Japanese vases and panels, and bronze and marble sculpture.

Historical significance: This painting is a good example of Hendrick Joseph Dillens' genre paintings, a category in which he specialised producing many scenes in open air as well as domestic interiors. The present painting showing an old soldier flattering a young girl bears all the essential characteristics of the painter's style such as a golden palette enlivened by touches of pinkish red and bright yellow, a relatively loose brushwork and wooden figures clumsily executed. Comparable paintings can be found in the Museum voor Oudheikunde en Sierkunst en Schone Kunsten, Kortrijk, especially The Sleeper dated 1847, which displays the same palette tonality and follows the same compositional scheme with a figure leaning against a cottage door and other characters standing before it.
With these genre scenes, Dillens, like many artists of his generation, went back to the Dutch traditional genre painting of the 17th century, excluding though the hidden meaning or symbolical message these pictures usually bore. There was in the first half of the 19th century a common fascination for Golden Age's imagery and artists tends to imitate their predecessors without adding any innovative pictorial effects. This Belgian genre school would however evolve and announce the new realism of The Hague school at the end of the century.

Historical context note

The artistic relationship between the Northern and the Southern Netherlands, that is modern-day Holland and Belgium, were very strong during the 19th century especially after the proclamation of the Kingdom of Netherlands in 1815. The Prix de Rome was awarded equally to Antwerp and Amsterdam artists, even after the independence of Belgium in 1830. The majority of Belgian art of the first half of the 19th century, including history painting, genre scenes, landscape and portrait paintings, articulated a new national pride which nevertheless drew upon French academic taste. Such artists as Jean-Bernard Duvivier (1762-1837), Henry Leys (1815-1869) and Karel Verlat (1824-1890) made extensive use of these renewed genres in their oeuvre. Focusing on the achievement of a greater realism, Belgian artists travelled a great deal, not only for training purposes in the tradition of their artistic predecessors but for the sake of discovering new surroundings and making new acquaintances: Paris was the favourite destination. While Italy also remained a popular destination, the majority of these artists tended to move on to other areas of interest, such as Morocco, less for their artistic traditions, and more for their exotic aspects.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Game Keeper and Woman at Cottage Door', Hendrik Joseph Dillens, 1858

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 32, cat. no. 69.


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Genre; Foliage; Farm; Peasant; Soldier




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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