A son of the Amsterdam pharmacist Alexander Hendrik Kruseman (1765-1829) and Cornelia Bötger, Cornelis Kruseman was born in Amsterdam on 25 September 1797. He received drawing and painting lessons from Charles Howard Hodges (1764-1837) and Petrus Antonius Ravelli (1788-1861). In October 1811, he attended classes at the drawing academy (Tekenacademie) in Amsterdam, where he was awarded a silver medal (1814) and a gold medal (1815) during a drawing competition. In 1817, he was awarded two silver medals at Felix Meritis for a painting and a drawing. He completed his education with Jean Augustin Daiwaille (1786-1850). Having achieved fame already at a young age, he became a master to others. Among his many pupils were Alexander Hugo Bakker Korff (1824-1882), Herman Frederik Carel ten Kate (1822-1891) and Jan Adam Kruseman (1804-1862).
Kruseman left Amsterdam in September 1821 and arrived in Rome in February 1822. In November 1824, he returned to the Netherlands and took up his residence in the Hague. Two years later, the account of his journey was published (Aantekeningen van C. Kruseman, Betrekkelijk deszelfs Kunstreis en verblijf in Italië, collected and published by A. Elink Sterk jr. with images, the Hague, S. de Visser, 1826). In 1832, he married Henriette Angelique Meijer.
Later in life, he returned to Rome and stayed there for a few years. This explains why he acquired the nickname Italian Kruseman. In 1847, he returned to the Hague where he took up his residence again.
In 1854, Kruseman moved to the Dutch town of Lisse, where he died on 14 November 1857.
He was not only called ‘the Italian Kruseman’, but also ‘the Hague Kruseman’. He lived in the Hague for the most part of his working life. Therefore, it is no surprise the foundation is located in the Hague!
During his lifetime, Kruseman was a renowned painter. He had close ties with the royal family who commissioned him to paint some portraits. In 1831, he was made a Companion of the Order of the Netherlands Lion. In 1847, he was made Commander in the Order of the Oak Crown, an order established by the Dutch king Willem II in his capacity of grand duke of Luxembourg.
Cornelis Kruseman’s works can be divided into different categories, i.e. historical paintings, portraits and Italian scenes.
At first, Kruseman intended to become a painter of historical pieces, a genre enjoying great popularity in the early nineteenth century. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, founded in Amsterdam in 1808, awarded prizes on an annual basis. The highest prize was awarded for the best painting representing the national history. The royal family, too, rewarded painters producing historical pieces, in general large-size paintings. In this category, Kruseman’s most important work is ‘De Slag bij Boutersem’ (‘The Battle of Boutersem’), a huge work in terms of size. It once decorated the wall of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. Although this work was eventually destroyed, an oil paint study can still be found at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Just like his second cousin Jan Adam Kruseman (1804-1862), Cornelis was a renowned portrait painter. The people he portrayed were usually from aristocratic or bourgeois classes. Many of these portraits can be found at the original residences of the people he portrayed, such as Duivenvoorde Castle (portraits of W.A. Baron Schimmelpenninck van der Oye and A.S. Baronesse Schimmelpenninck van der Oye-Van Rhenen).
During the Romantic era, Arcadian Italy was a popular destination among artists. Cornelis Kruseman, too, spent a lot of time in Italy where he focussed on painting the rural population. A magnificent example of this is the painting titled ‘Een van zin’ (‘Harmony’), which was shown during the exhibition Masters of Romance at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam held in 2005 and 2006. It can now be found at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.