Willem Koekkoek

(1839 - 1895)

The Nieuwmarkt in Amsterdam in winter

Signed, lower left: W Koekkoek 
Oil on canvas
33¾ x 49 in – 86 x 124.5 cm
Frame size
46 x 61½ in – 116.8 x 156.2 cm 

Tel.: +44 (0)20 7839 7693


Private collection, EU 
The magnificent building that dominates the present painting is the Waag, meaning weigh house, which was originally built in the 15th century as a gatehouse in Amsterdam’s city walls. Christened Sint Antoniespoort (St. Anthony’s gate), it stood at the end of the Zeedijk dike. The gable stone is inscribed with a foundation date of 28th April 1488, however city archives refer to it prior to this date; either way it is the oldest secular building in Amsterdam that remains standing. Numerous additions were made to the building over the next two centuries and a number of surrounding canals were filled in before its establishment as a weigh house for the adjacent market in 1617. The octagonal tower at the centre was added in 1691. By the beginning of the 19th century it no longer had sufficient capacity to remain a weigh house and went on to house various workshops, making candles and furniture and was also used as an armoury, a fire station as well as a store for city archives. For much of the 20th century it served as a museum.


Willem Koekkoek was born in Amsterdam on 13th January 1839, the son of Hermanus Koekkoek (1815-82), a name synonymous with 19th century Dutch painting. Willem was grandson of Jan Hermanus Koekkoek (1778-1851) and nephew to Barend Cornelis (1803-1862) and Marinus Adrianus (1807-1868) while Johannes Barend Cornelis (1840-1912) was a first cousin.

Willem studied under his father Hermanus, a marine painter though adopting town scenes as his favoured subject matter, a field of painting distinct from those of the remaining members of the extended family. Living in Amsterdam in his youth, Willem like so many of his contemporaries travelled widely in search of commissions and subject matter, in 1878 he was living in The Hague and subsequently Utrecht before returning to Amsterdam in 1880. In 1885 he moved to Nieuwer Amstel and in 1888 visited London, returning to Nieuwer Amstel where he died on 20th January 1895. Willem Koekkoek had few rivals in the market for town scenes, only Cornelis Springer (1817-1891) and his pupil Adrianus Eversen (1818-1897) can be seriously considered as his competitors and rivals in this genre. This market flourished in The Netherlands and Great Britain where a demand for Dutch paintings had existed since the 17th century. With a growing affluent middle-class this demand grew throughout the 19th century, providing a market for the Koekkoek family and Willem himself.

Willem exhibited widely, in Leeuwarden in 1859 and subsequently in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam 1865-94 almost exclusively town scenes of the Netherlands. An artist who continues to be widely collected, the National Gallery, London acquired a composition by Willem Koekkoek in 1982.

His works can be found in museums in: London, National Gallery; Amsterdam, Historisch Museum; The Hague; Kleve and Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts.

Willem Koekkoek