As the eldest son, Barend Cornelis Koekkoek seemed destined to succeed his father Johannes Hermanus as a marine painter. He learned the principles of painting from his father, while at the same time he took lessons at the Academy of Middelburg, a breeding ground for painters of the sea and ships. With this background and education, a specialization in navies would not have been surprising. However, Barend Cornelis chose the land over the sea. As early as 1822, at an exhibition in his birthplace Middelburg, it becomes clear which genre he prefers. His entry then consists of six landscape watercolors. Here it is still copies after 17th century masters, but soon he will show work of his own invention. His education continues at the academy in Amsterdam, where he studies from 1822 to 1825 as a student of Jean Augustin Daiwaille, his later father-in-law, and Jan Willem Pieneman. Does Barend Cornelis' surprising choice for landscape painting arise from originality and willfulness, qualities that characterize a great artist, or was the wind taken from his sails by his brothers Johannes and Hermanus? Be that as it may, extraordinary artistic prowess and enthusiasm have made him a successful artist, creator of landscapes so beloved by royal circles that they created a waiting list and enthusiasts had to look for their coveted painting for years. Barend Cornelis had five daughters, two of whom devoted themselves to the arts: Maria Louise and Adèle. The first, like her father, specialized in landscapes, while Adèle continued the tradition of her mother Elise Thérèse and painted flower still lifes.
At Barend Cornelis Koekkoek, winter is secondary to summer: it is estimated that he painted about a hundred snow and ice scenes, about a fifth of his oeuvre. It is striking that Koekkoek specialized in the summer landscape, while his contemporary and counterpart Andreas Schelfhout - greatly admired by Barend Cornelis - was especially renowned for his meticulously painted skating scenes. Unlike in most winters in Schelfhout, or that of his 17th-century predecessor Hendrick Avercamp, Barend Cornelis does not show the animated ice entertainment in his earliest snow landscapes, but depicts the silence in nature when she is dressed in white. From the 1930s onwards, the winters were furnished more vividly, and skaters on frozen ditches, canals and lakes made their appearance, making them more similar to Schelfhout's compositions. The winters of Barend Cornelis, however, are often more richly decorated with trees, bushes and castles or ruins. The majestic oak appears in almost all of his paintings, making it almost his logo. This tree is the symbol of strength, power and imperishability, represents immortality and eternal life. In Barend Cornelis' paintings, his presence also emphasizes the insignificance of man in relation to nature. The winter landscape gave Koekkoek the opportunity to immortalize his beloved millennial Wodan oak with its whimsical branch structure in all its bare glory.
Before settling permanently in the German Kleve in 1834, Barend Cornelis lived in Middelburg, Amsterdam, Hilversum and in Beek near Nijmegen. Meanwhile, he traveled through the Netherlands, Belgium and the Rhineland, to the Harz and to Switzerland in search of motifs for romantic ideal landscapes. The German Central Mountains are often the backdrop in its summers. His book 'Memories and Announcements of a Landscape Painter' shows how much the beauty of the German Rhineland landscape touched him, especially the area of the Siebengebirge with the famous Drachenfels. In almost ecstatic terms he says about this: 'At last, here the gaze is presented to a mountainous landscape with a stately stream, which meanders through it in a hundred arcs, and all this creates sensations in the soul, whereby man, in melancholy mood , still feels so well. You no longer think you are standing on the globe, which displays its richest and most beautiful landscapes here