Anton Sminck PITLOO

(Arnhem 1790 - Naples 1837)

A Sunlit Evening Cloudscape above the Sea

Oil on paper laid down on canvas, cm. 16 x 31.5
Signed lower left: A. Pitloo


Pitloo began his training in his Arnhem, where he grew up, but took up a grant offered by the then King of Holland, Louis Buonapart, to travel to Paris, where he studied first with the architect and designer Charles Percier and afterwards, as his interest in landscape painting grew, in the studios of Jean-Joseph-Xavier Bidauld (1758-1846) and Jean-Victor Bertin (1767-1842) who also taught Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.
In 1811, Pitloo moved to Rome still supported by a stipend from Louis Bonaparte as well as commissions from English Milords.  Three years later, with the fall of Napoleon, Pitloo went south to Naples on the invitation of the Russian diplomat Count Gregorio Vladimir Orloff and there he remained until his premature death in the cholera epidemic of 1837. In 1816, he won by public competition, the post of landscape professor at the Neapolitan Academy of Painting. He married a Neapolitan, Giulia Mori and became a citizen of the Two Kingdoms of Sicily. Known as Antonio van Pitloo, he was the principal member of the School of Posilipo, as it became known, a loosely bound group of painters who followed his plein air approach to painting landscapes, based on the observation of natural effects of light and weather viewed from the vantage point of the small eponymous port in the Bay of Naples, which looked across to the city and on to Mount Vesuvius.

In the present work, Pitloo demonstrates on a small scale his absolute mastery of paint. The shadows and reflections of the setting sun are expressed in the flash of sea on the horizon and in the calligraphic brushstrokes defining the dark undersides of the cloud formations. The focus of this most painterly work is on capturing the colour range of the Neapolitan evening sky – the deepening blue, the purple masses of land and cumulous cloud, the hazy range of deep red to almost white caused by the sun’s descent. Boldy signed in yellow, this work shows Pitloo at his most experimental. Said to have been influenced by the visits to Naples of Turner and Corot, his paintings and particularly his oil sketches belong with other early 19th century adventures in non-adacemic painting, a kinship which is particularly apparent here in this panoramically shaped oil on paper.