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Rob Kattenburg

Art dealer and expert for 40 years, specializing in marine art

Gallery Rob Kattenburg has specialized in old marine art for more than forty years and occupies a unique position in the international art trade.
The gallery’s main focus is on seventeenth-, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, drawings and prints on the subjects of shipping and cartography. Gallery Rob Kattenburg is approached by private collectors and museums alike when it comes to purchasing marine art. His great knowledge of and interest in maritime history have for many years made Rob Kattenburg a walking encyclopaedia for museum curators and large and small collectors.

The ever-changing collection includes paintings, drawings and prints by such great masters as Willem van de Velde and Ludolf Backhuysen, as well as often surprisingly fine works by painters who worked in the shadow of these acclaimed artists and yet developed individual styles. The interesting thing about this last group is that they are often extremely reasonably priced.

  Rob Kattenburg
Rob Kattenburg in his private library.

Starting in 1978 Rob Kattenburg took part in the legendary Delft Art and Antiques Fair, followed by TEFAF in Maastricht and PAN, the Dutch art and antiques fair in Amsterdam. Due to the international character of the TEFAF and the fact that it is the most important fair for old masters in the world, the Amsterdam art dealer decided in 2012 to participate again. His stand is a meeting point for anyone interested in maritime art.

 

Background

   

As a schoolboy Rob Kattenburg was already showing a great interest in the glorious history of the Netherlands. He bought prints from the stalls in the Waterlooplein flea market with his pocket money and he occasionally made amazing finds. He purchased a fine etching by Goya for 25 cents and had to fork out a whole 10 cents for an etching by Reinier Nooms called Zeeman. In the main his fascination was the Netherlands’ maritime past. He haunted museums and read every book he could lay his hands on about the Dutch East India Company and the great voyages of discovery, and he learnt everything he could about the ships of the glorious days of sail. As was only to be expected, he was fascinated by the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age in which these vessels are depicted, and it was almost inevitable that he would make a profession out of his hobby. He started with prints and maps, adding paintings and drawings later. This was in the days when paintings were comparatively cheap and there were a lot on offer. An excellent start for an aspiring art dealer. Now, more than forty years after that initial start, Gallery Rob Kattenburg is one of the few international art dealers specializing in maritime art.

View some of the more important or interesting paintings we have sold over the last years

Personal advice about buying from Rob Kattenburg

Far too often, established and new collectors are tempted by well-known names like Ludolf Backhuysen when they are contemplating a purchase. The fact that even the great masters occasionally produced work of inferior quality is often overlooked. Not to mention the attribution—is the painting really by the master in question? And last but not least, there is the question of the condition of the work. You have to keep your wits about you, particularly if the asking price is low. Don’t forget that a painting by a well-known artist such as Willem van de Velde or Ludolf Backhuysen which is excellent in all respects is usually expensive. A supposedly cheap purchase can sometimes prove to be a huge disappointment. Financially too.

We have been advising on purchasing marine art for forty years, and our advice has remained the same throughout that time: when you buy, put quality first. The ‘minor masters’ sometimes made paintings of extremely high artistic quality that can compete with many a work by a great master. And the price of a quality painting like this is many, many times lower than what one would have to pay for mediocre work by a big name.

The ‘Grey School’

The saying ‘unknown, unloved’ certainly applies to these tonal paintings pioneered by Jan Porcellis. Never before were seas and rivers depicted in such a lifelike fashion. Magnificent, sometimes menacing skies above an angry sea, with one or more ships, make an overwhelming impression. They are archetypal Dutch paintings that one can go on looking at and enjoying. We would rather have a storm by a minor marine painter such as Pieter Mulier (1610-1670) for around € 50,000 than a ‘good’ early Van de Velde or Jan van de Cappelle for anything from two to ten million euros. Anyone who takes the trouble to get to know this still undervalued ‘Grey School’ will not be disappointed.

Where to buy

It is an open market. Obviously paintings are offered in the art trade and you can go to sales too. If you decide on a general art dealer or a specialist like Gallery Rob Kattenburg you can expect to get expert advice, pay an appropriate price and a get a guarantee. And naturally you’ll get service. If you prefer to go to a sale then you need to have done your homework. Buying on impulse carries a huge risk. Here’s just one example of the pitfalls: in our archives we have catalogued and researched all of the paintings by Backhuysen that were offered in sales in the last thirty years. The result is surprising. More than half of the paintings offered at auction as by Backhuysen proved NOT to have been by the painter himself. In almost all cases they were studio works or by painters ‘in the style of’ like Aernout Smit, Wigerus Vitringa and Jan Claesz. Rietschoof. The buyers certainly didn’t get what they paid for.

The costs of buying, selling or dealing on commission

Let’s start with the auction sale. On the sale of a painting the auction house often charges the buyer as much as 24.8% on the hammer price (up to € 400,000). The seller has to pay 10% in costs as well. In other words one third goes to the auction house. Private individuals who want to sell and give the commission to Gallery Rob Kattenburg only pay 20%.

The auction is basically no legal owner. The auction only mediates between the seller (the consignor) and the buying party. The vendors are (generally) charged around 10% and the buying party 29.75% of the hammer price. For example: If an auction item sells for € 1,500,000 (ie the hammer price), the vendors will receive approximately € 1,200,000 and the buyer pays € 1,500,000 + 29.75% (surcharge). A total amount of € 1,946,250. The auction house profits approximately € 746,250.
If we sell the painting for you for a price of € 1,950,000, then we charge you 20% commission fee and 21% VAT, so you will receive approximately € 1,600,000!

  Reinier Nooms
Etch by Reinier Nooms: De Paerrel een Oostindis Vaerder, Den Dubbelen Arent een Westindis Vaerder, ca. 1650.
Rob Kattenburg is a member of VHOK, the Association of Fine Art Dealers in the Netherlands Rob Kattenburg is a member of CINOA, The International Art and Antiques Trade Association Rob Kattenburg is an exhibitor at TEFAF Maastricht