In 1813, the Netherlands was liberated from the French oppression, after which the country needed identity and patriotic pride. The Golden Age, a period of great economic prosperity and wealth, was taken as an example; Rembrandt was elevated to Holland's most famous painter, Michiel de Ruyter became a national hero. It is therefore not surprising that painters such as Cornelis Springer, from a family of architects, caught the eye of the buildings from that heyday.
Springer was trained as a house and decoration painter and was a student of Jacobus van der Stok, Hendrik Gerrit ten Cate and especially Kasparus Karsen, whose muted copper colorite can be found in Springer's early work (ca. 1835-1845). Like the other city painters, Karsen mainly made fantasy faces, or capriccios sometimes with existing elements. From the mid-1950s Springer began to paint more and more topographically. He found his subjects in his hometown of Amsterdam, but also visited, for example, the towns around the Zuiderzee where the old buildings still showed off in large numbers. It was a huge success. Customers were on the waiting list to buy his paintings and he sometimes sold his important works for thousands of guilders. To illustrate: he sold one of Springer's most expensive works in the 1970s for four thousand guilders, while the annual income of wealthy painters such as Jacob maris and Mesdag was about six thousand in the same period.
A well-known way in which Springer worked is that he first made a large drawing on the spot, with charcoal on well-prepared paper. From these drawings the buyer could then choose a representation that would be executed in the same format in oil paint. A handy way of doing business, because the painter had sold his work before he started. He also had his administration in order. He kept cash books and documented which painting he sold to whom and for how much. He even kept track of how long he spent on his paintings and the days on which he worked on a specific part.
Cornelis Springer was an influential man in Amsterdam's art life. He was secretary, vice-chairman, chairman and even an honorary member of the Amsterdam art society Arti et Amicitiae. As an artist, he managed to establish a reputation as a highly skilled painter. And he was an artist with whom, based on his drawings, you could choose a painting in the confidence that it would not disappoint you.
'Springer's charcoal drawings are a feast for the eyes. With his own certainty, a great architectural knowledge, every line touched and Springer managed to create the illusion of space and depth with so little that the layman cannot explain the miracle.'
From: Johan Gram, 'Cornelis Springer', Elseviers Geïllustreerd Maandschrift, January-July 1899, page 203.